Chia Charge Blog Post

Here is my latest blog post written for our Chia Charge website …

One of the good things that has come out of lockdown and the cancellation of many of the races we love is the rise of virtual races. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that I’d never thought about how a virtual race would work and what was the point. But now I’ve been involved in a couple over the summer I can see they are a great way to keep motivated during this year when our normal races have been cancelled or postponed.

On our Run to the Hills Facebook page I asked members to share their thoughts about what motivated them to take part in a virtual race this year. Here is a summary of their answers. I think it gives a good cross section of what has been motivating us during 2020.

  • I was surprised how much I enjoyed doing it virtually and even got a 20 min PB on the course which really surprised me and since I’ve ran 3 other virtual races. (Kelly Sullavan)
  • I liked seeing all the different ways people were getting up to the 96 miles over the 9 days my motivation to do it was I was coming back from injury so the time to walk run was a good mix and doing it over the 9 days really took the pressure off and made it a more reachable goal. (Derek Chambers)
  • I’ve only ran one virtual race and that was a 50k during lockdown round my local golf course. I DNF’d an ultra a few weeks before lockdown and felt I had a point to prove to myself, so I went out and smashed it. (Mark McDonald)
  • I haven’t really got into the virtual races, had a couple of injuries and haven’t found them massively motivating, but the couple I did enter it was about community and getting caught up in the group online. Both times the Facebook group is very active with lots of chat and support (and lovely silliness), and the race organiser has been really good at whipping everyone up into a frenzy and leading it all. (Jo Barrett)
  • I did the Centurion One Community and The One Up combined with Lakeland 100! I love Centurion races and I was due to do Lakeland so it was an easy decision to enter the virtual races. I loved the whole community spirit of these virtual races. I am quite picky about which ones I do but have entered the centurion 100 for the end of the month (of course!) I think the motivation for me is committing to the distance and knowing my friends are in it with me! A Facetime chat with my pals during a long run is great! (Jane Stephens)
  • I like the motivation that it gives me to consistently get out there and run even though there’s nothing specifically to train for at the moment. Also, some of them have had great community involvement online. (Ross Beveridge)
  • I ran the virtual UTMB in the summer. Although there was the remote chance of a prize entry to the real race, the real motivation was to give some focus to the running I was doing. Enjoyment came from the actual challenge (I am quite goal orientated) and as a bonus I liked that I won a £300 discount voucher from Columbia, UTMB sponsors. (Mike King)
  • They are a different kind of hard and that I was surprised to love. I’ve done two, Kielder marathon and the Lakeland L100. With both I was working a full day’s work and commute, so fitting stuff in and around that was the ultra-challenge. This took a little planning and I found splitting the days running into a before and after work run perfect. But also fitting family life around it too, I found running when everyone was sleeping wonderful, so I would run for two or three hours from midnight and loved that most of all, nobody about except a few fishermen, it then became more real, head torch, stars, crazy hours running, such a running high . Never the same and certainly lacking the hills where I live but this new none normal v running thing actually gave me back my running mojo under strange times. (Tony Allen)
  • My running club has held a whole series of virtual events, lots of variety of different events /distances/ strategy. All events have had a few weeks to do them so have fitted in around life. Points have been awarded for each event for our club competition. Event 13/14 currently in progress! Kept my motivation going all year! (Georgina Phillips)
  • I have only done a couple. With the most recent being the Fryupdale full. I absolutely love the enthusiasm and efforts of the organisers to keep us moving. As always motivation breeds motivation and this combined with an opportunity to get out, enjoy the country, test your self-discipline & bag 30 plus miles of Yorkshire wonderfulness then why wouldn’t you. (Paul Richardson)
  • I used to think ‘what’s the point’ but have to admit that they have motivated me to get out over lockdown when I might have been less eager. I’ve done a few which have specific climbing goals as well as distance and this has really pushed me to try some harder stuff than I would have ordinarily done. (Helen Munro)
  • I did the Hardmoors Fryupdale virtual. I liked it because I got the chance to do it on the actual course and the motivation was that the miles counted towards the 1000 mile club in addition to the fact I knew entries were supporting the organisers and providing some income for local volunteer groups eg mountain rescue. We need to work together to support the organisations that cater for our weekend fixes to ensure their longer-term survival. (Simon Middleton)
  • Enjoyed UTMB. Was nice to have a race as a challenge after so many were cancelled. (Stuart Macfarlane)
  • I did the Cockbain Accumulator in May when we were not meant to travel to exercise. The local paths round here don’t really thrill me, so it was extra motivation as well as the challenge of the event itself. I also got involved with Covid trig challenge and cycled and ran to lots of trig pillars and other trigs. It was interesting to explore places local but up to now ignored. I set myself a challenge, the Lancashire Witches Way 52 miles over some hills. I hope to do Cockbain The Hill, I might do his 6in 6 but not sure about the tarmac running. I might do Escape from Meriden 24 hr release. Have been doing lots of MaprunF Orienteering routes and getting back into navigating. Again, a challenge, a chance to explore and a reason to run when it would be easy not to bother. (Karen Nash)
  • I love the Lakeland events. I love how they raise so much money for the charities. I entered the Lakeland 100 to motivate me to get out for miles in the legs for events that could possibly go ahead. But then I entered the 50 as well just for a donation really. Then I started to think 155 miles was doable. And it was. The virtual event with the charity donations helped me. I have done a couple of Hardmoors events to support the organisation. If we don’t do this. They may not be there in the future. I am already entered into the Lakeland Lapland and the double is in my thoughts. (Mick Browne)
  • I did a Hardmoors virtual ‘fry up’ half marathon around the actual course. For a change I liked the idea of doing a shorter hard route where you can throw yourself around and it not worry about saving anything for the last 20 miles. The route was completely unknown to me and as I was on my own with no other runners to follow it felt more of an adventure. The fact that it was a virtual, although not competitive and not just a training run definitely helped me give a little bit more. For motivation I like medals. I like T-shirts. I like the idea of supporting races through difficult times. I like the fun element of trying to match a virtual race and its elevation in a more familiar local training area which I’ve just done for the Hardmoors virtual Goathland full marathon. I just couldn’t find another 500 feet from anywhere to cover the actual elevation but never mind, the intention was there. (Kev Gay)
  • I’ve completed a few different virtual races since lockdown including the WHW relay and the Manchester Marathon. Primarily I’ve enjoyed the fact that you can set your own route and start time. As well as being able to plan and complete the “race” with my favourite running buddies. It has provided focus and motivation to train, explore some while exploring some beautiful new trails in Scotland. Importantly it has also helped with my mental health. And of course, who doesn’t love a medal. (Adrian Abbotts)
  • I’ve ran 2 virtual ultra-marathons. The princess challenge ultra and Hardmoors Fryupdale Marathon both 32 miles. I ran the princess ultra with my two babies in the buggy. I love the fact that even virtual races like Great North Run and the wall (done over 2 weeks) I have been able to do with the boys something you can’t do in live races. My toddler even did the princess short and sweet virtual race 8.5 miles over a couple of weeks. I love how inclusive they are. I’m currently doing the Pennine way I’m 80 mile in I have until March. (Deborah Jefferies)
  • What I liked most, was seeing parts of the country side that is outside my door. My motivation is simple, I enjoy being fit, healthy and active – but most important I felt connected with my WHW family. I’ve only ever done one “virtual run”! (Yan Horsburgh)
  • Loved the Centurion One Community event in May and doing it again this time. Nothing can beat the energy of an actual race, but with bed to event being approx 10 mins, with familiar trails and an unfamiliar goal, with family support cos frankly they are usually too busy doing their own stuff to come to a race, it’s the perfect way to do a multi-day event!! The motivation, well I could do it any week that’s true, but I like a bit of bling, I like the feeling there are others out there sharing the experience and it’s the most fabulous way to train for future endeavours!! (Kirstie Ashton)
  • I took part in the virtual WHW event this year, it was the participation in a community that I liked best about it, Facebook posts and live chats helped the participation. While I’d have been running around anyway during the time, it was great to have a focus! (John Curran)
  • I took part in the WHW, Great Glen and Lakeland 50 virtual races throughout the summer. The Great Glen and Lakeland 50 I’ve ran before, and I loved just being part of the community and sharing posts with others again. The WHW was my big race this year, so even though it couldn’t happen the virtual event still made me part of the race experience, I also ran my own 30 mile ultra as I felt it was the right thing to do for the WHW. It was all brilliant fun juggling miles between work and family doing what I love (Morven Walsh)
  • I did the virtual WHW race. It’s the only virtual I’ve done and only did it because of the community spirit and posts as the week went on. I was going for the triple crown this year as my come back post serious injury but unfortunately it didn’t happen. I found the virtual harder simply due to time. I didn’t have the weekend written off to do it so had to fit the distances around life. On the last day I just needed to go out and run until I had completed it no matter how long it took. (Nicola Dawson)
  • I’ve done several virtual events this year, from 5K to ultramarathon. Reasons include (variously, often in combination): to support the organisers of events I would normally run ‘in person’; for the community feel; to help maintain motivation; to keep progressing towards 100 ultras; to support charities and plant trees; to earn medals that I’ve been wanting for my collection (no, it’s not ‘buying’ medals – I still have to complete the run). The 5K and 10K challenges (club, and EA virtual 5K) pushed me to massive new PBs for those distances while the ultras kept me running long. (Debra Bourne)
  • We entered a range of virtual events, from 5k’s to the GNR Solo (40 runs in 78 days). Although they were poor substitutes for the real thing they were good fun. The best thing was seeing the comments from people that might not have entered the real event but felt part of the virtual one and may now do it for real in the future e.g. WHW & Lakeland 50/100. I’m fairly ‘internally motivated’ in my running so my main reasons for entering virtual events this summer was to support the race organisers. (Andy Norman)
  • I think the only attraction that they have for me is the sense of ‘community’ that they can bring which I would normally have got from weekly parkruns or regular races. (Roz Glover)

We all hope that next year we will be able to get back to taking part in real races but for now thanks so much to race organisers for providing that motivation we needed to keep running during this difficult year.

If you are looking for another ‘virtual’ race to take part in then we feature two in Episode 14 of Run to the Hills

Centurion One – Monday 23rd – Sunday 29th November 2020

Lakeland Lapland Virtual Ultra Run – Thursday 10th – Tuesday 22nd December 2020

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Review of October 2020

During October I ran 144.97 as I continued my build up to and the actual Hardmoors 55 race. The initial plan was to also run the South Downs Way 100 but the race has now been cancelled due to the 4 week national lock down in England. I had actually decided not to travel anyway as we are in tier 3 in Scotland.

So I’m glad I was able to run the Hardmoors 55 last Saturday so I’ve been able to at least run one ‘proper’ race this year.

Here is a summary of my runs this month.

So far in 2020 I have ran 1572.36 miles. The target for achieving 2020 miles would be 1647.94 miles so I’m 75.58 miles short but I’m not going to chase it this year!

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Staying Positive

Here is my latest blog post written for the Chia Charge website …

Staying positive on a long race where you are on the go for 10, 20, 30 or more hours is important but often difficult. The problem is though that when you are feeling negative it does affect you physically so if you are able to stay positive then it has many benefits.

There are many reasons for feeling negative

  • something hurts
  • there is a long way to go
  • you’ve not eaten properly
  • feeling sick
  • you are cold
  • falling behind your goal time
  • do I really need to finish this race

When you have thoughts like these and start thinking about quitting it can be quite difficult if not impossible to move to a positive mindset so my top tip is to try and move to a neutral state first.

One time I interviewed Andy DuBois, who is a running coach based in Australia, for the West Highland Way Podcast and when he outlined this strategy it made so much sense to me.

Basically Andy said that if you can move from a negative mindset to a neutral one then you have more chance to then move to a positive mindset.

For example last Saturday I ran the Hardmoors 55 and with 25 miles to go I got quite cold and made the mistake of not putting on an extra layer until I was really, really cold! It was definitely a low point in the race and my mind was starting to drift to negative thoughts which I needed to address quickly.

The main way that I use to get me to a neutral mindset is to count. Each time my right foot hits the ground I count 1 and keep going to a 100. Then I repeat on my left foot. I will also vary my counting by going 1,2 then 1,2,3 then 1,2,3,4 etc. I count down from 100. I have many different ways of counting!!

After I have done this for 10mins or I’m really feeling really negative a lot longer hopefully I have moved from that negative feeling to a neutral one and ready to see things in a better perspective and get going again with a more positive frame of mind.

You will need a find what works for you. My wife likes to plan out what she is going to wear the following week! I read once that an architect designs a house as he’s running. Being a simple sort of guy that would be way too taxing for me! So I’ll keep to my counting.

I hope this helps so next time you are on a run or in a race and you start feeling negative try counting or something similar to take your mind away from the negative thoughts and hopefully you will find that neutral mindset and then get back to feeling positive and enjoying the run!Happy thinking and running!

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2020 Hardmoors 55 Race Report

This is the 7th time I have run this great race. My first was the very first time it was held in 2010 and it went from Helmsley to Guisborough and the weather was pretty similar!!

This year a number of things were very different mostly due to the ongoing pandemic including

  • The race being held in October rather than March
  • A time-trial style start
  • No mass briefing at the start listening to Jon go through to list of things that Shirley had told him to say!
  • All the checkpoints outside
  • No lovely hot food to welcome us at the finish

The other big thing for me personally was that I was going to run the South Downs Way 100 just two weeks later. As a rule I really don’t like to have two ultra-races so close together but as part of my new role as co-host of ‘Run to the Hills’ I really wanted to do one of the Centurion races and the opportunity came up to take part in the South Downs Way 100 so I put wisdom to one side and decided to go for it.

Only time will tell whether this was as reckless as it feels right now a couple of days after the Hardmoors 55!!

Katrina and I travelled down from Scotland on Friday afternoon and stayed in the home of friends in Guisborough who were away for the weekend. It meant that I could get up at 6.30am, have a leisurely breakfast and head to the start in time for my 8.46am start.

The system put in the place by Shirley & Jon Steele was excellent and everything ran like clockwork. I arrived 20 mins before my start time which gave time to drop off my drop bags, collect my tracker and number and walk to the start.

My good friends Andy & Sarah Norman were also in the same start time. That wasn’t by chance! We had asked Shirley whether we could start together as we hadn’t seen each other for ages and had a lot of catching up to do!

They had kindly sent me a bespoke face covering which I wore with pride …

Photo thanks to Rachel McMahon

Guisborough to Clay Bank (20.35 miles)

Our group of 6 set off and the 3 guys were away and we didn’t see them again! Andy, Sarah & I had agreed to run together for as long as it worked for us all but we also recognised that if either of us was feeling good or struggling we wouldn’t be waiting for each other. In the end we mostly ran together for the first 35 miles which was a highlight of the race for me anyway!

I had a very clear plan. In our ‘Run to the Hills’ podcast we have a regular feature called Top Tips and Eddie, my co-host, and I take turns to lead.  In a recent episode when it was my turn I shared some tips on finishing well and the first key point was you have to start sensibly.

So with this in mind and the fact that I needed to be able to recover quickly after the race to have any chance to run the SDW 100 in two weeks’ time I was determined to keep my heart rate down and my breathing very easy.  I had a rough idea of 13hrs as my goal, but it was very much secondary to the main goal of running well within myself which was just as well as I was nowhere near 13hrs!!

 The miles ticked by fairly easily as I chatted to Andy & Sarah as we caught up with our various bits of news. Andy & Sarah supported me when I ran the Hardmoors 160 a few years ago and it is no exaggeration to say that I wouldn’t have finished that race without their support and encouragement.

On that day in 2016 I was ready to call it a day at Kildale with 42 miles to go but wouldn’t let me even consider dropping out on their watch and somehow by gentle encouragement and downright lies (it will be light soon – it was 2am!!) they got me going again and I will always be very grateful to them for helping me to realise that I had more in me physically than I thought possible.

Photo taken by Mick Brown

As we made our way to Roseberry Topping a steady stream of runners went past us who had started after us. As I wasn’t too worried about time and position I actually enjoyed having a quick chat with each one. A number of runners said they were enjoying the new Podcast which was nice.

As we got a little higher and into the open the full force of the wind hit us and it was hard going with it right in our faces. We also knew that it wasn’t going to get any easier for a long time which proved so so true!

We passed through the gate and as we made our way down and then up to the top of Roseberry Topping lots of runners were coming back towards us having been to the top. It is a lovely feature of the route that you get a chance to say hi to lots of runners throughout the field.

I ate my peanut butter and jam sandwich on the way up so if I didn’t say hello to anyone coming down it was because my mouth was full!!

It was very windy on the top but we had time for a quick photo! I was doing regular video clips for my race diary and Andy videoed me going round the cairn at the top.

Selfie with Andy

We made our way down as other were heading up and ran along the newly laid path to the first drop bag checkpoint at Gribdale. Normally this is a nice relaxed downhill run but with the wind right in our faces it felt a lot harder than it should or maybe it was just me who found it hard going!!

The marshals at Gribdale were superb, as were all the marshals throughout the course. My drop bag was ready, water bottle filled up and I was away with an encouragement without wasting too much time.

Photo thanks to Ann Brown

I walked up the hill with Adam who went on to have one of his best days out in an ultra. I enjoyed hearing the story of his running and how much he was determined to finish this race.

Andy took some video of me running away from Cook’s monument which I will include in my video diary. I was feeling nice and relaxed and happy with the first couple of hours.

The three of us made our way down and headed towards Kildale where sportsunday photographer was waiting to take our photo. I said to Andy, ‘let’s run in line’. He agreed and then ran ahead to take the glory. It made a great photo though

As we passed the village hall at Kildale Andy & I chatted about what normally happens here and how a nice cup of tea would have been very welcome!

But instead we pushed on and made the long climb up the hill. I always think if you haven’t done this route before then this hill seems to go on and on for ages. But even if you have done it before it still goes on and on but at least you are prepared for it!

The three of us were moving well and chatting certainly passed the time. It was fun to chat with Andy for a while and then Sarah. I’m sure they also chatted to each other as well!

Once we got off the road and onto the track Sarah’s strong walking style was interesting to observe. I couldn’t keep up with her by walking but my run was faster than her walk! So I would drift behind then run past, walk a bit and sure enough she would catch me again!

Soon enough we reached Bloworth Crossing which is always a good marker as the next checkpoint at Clay Bank is 3 miles away.

Thanks to Sarah for the photo

I was deliberately looking around a lot more on this run and trying to pick out the route behind and going forward. I realise that often I have a ‘head down and get on with it’ type of style but now trying to be a little more relaxed I was taking time to look up and enjoy it.

Besides picking out the route over the three sisters that was coming next we realised that there was a dark cloud ahead so we were expecting some rain!

A mile or so before Clay Bank Stephen Braithwaite went past looking very strong. I had interviewed Stephen after his successful Coast 2 Coast race recently for ‘Run to the Hills’ so it was good to see him running so well.

We reached the checkpoint and once again the marshals were very efficient and helpful in refilling bottles and having drop bags ready. I stopped to drink my chocolate milkshake and sort out my bag before heading up the first of the three sisters.

Clay Bank to Sneck Yate (18.95 miles) Overall 39.30 miles

I headed up the first of the three sisters in pursuit of Andy & Sarah who hadn’t stopped.  I felt strong on the climb and then ran/ walked along the slab stones until I reached the large boulders and where you have to scramble your way down. I could see Andy & Sarah not too far ahead.

I climbed up the second of the hills again feeling strong and relaxed. I ran down and then met Phil Owen who was out cheering on the runners. He took this photo of me as I passed. It was great to see him.

Thanks to Phil Owen for the photo

On the third climb I caught up with Andy & Sarah and within a few minutes we stopped to put on our waterproof jackets as we could see a very dark cloud coming our way. We put them on just in time as pretty soon we were getting absolutely soaked. 

We ran down to Lordstone’s Cafe, past a few supporters who were out braving the rain and then started climbing up the next hill. It was pretty wild for about 40 mins so we experienced some typical Hardmoors weather! 

Once we climbed up and past the large cairn I went past Sarah feeling good. I didn’t look back but wondered whether I would see them again. It is always a longer section than I think but eventually the route does head down through the woods. Three guys went past me looking strong.

The rain had mainly stopped by now but from here to the end there were bouts of rain and drizzle. I ran past the phone box and on to the road. At the junction where the route takes a right over the stream there was a runner ahead about to go straight on. I called him back and we ran together for the next few miles.

His name was Alex and this was to be his furthest race so far. His wife and two children were supporting him and he was looking forward to seeing them at Osmotherley Square Corner. I decided to give Alex the benefit of my ‘wisdom’ as I shared some of my Top Tips from our ‘Run to the Hills podcast including one which will be shared in the next episode! 

It was good to have some company as Andy & Sarah were still behind. When we reached the checkpoint at the road I stopped to refill my water bottle while Alex pushed on. It was raining again fairly heavily so it was a case of hood up and get on with it. I passed a family with two small children. I was impressed that they were out in these conditions, but the boys had good waterproofs and looked as though they were enjoying themselves. The Dad asked me how far I’d done and when he heard 29 miles he seemed impressed! 

I ran through the woods, past the TV tower which is always a good marker and headed towards Osmotherley. There is one junction which is not marked and once I went left rather than right so I was watching out for it. When I got there Alex was waiting as he was unsure which way to go. He said I thought you would know!

So we ran to Osmotherley together and chatted some more. Alex is from Edinburgh originally but lives now in Durham where he teaches History. He has only recently got into off-road ultras but has caught the bug! It’s always nice to meet new people as I don’t need to worry about repeating myself as he won’t have heard any of my stories!! 

Once we reached the road and headed to the village I said to Alex I was going stop in the sheltered alleyway as I had a few things I needed to do – change my gloves as they were sopping wet, change the battery on my GoPro, get my recharger out for my Suunto watch and get my head torch ready for when it got dark. I was there for maybe 6mins and during that time Andy & Sarah went past so they hadn’t been too far behind.

I was on my own for the climb up to Square Corner so I had time to think about how I was feeling. Generally, I felt okay but I can’t say I was too comfortable. I was still able to run when it was flat or down, but I certainly wasn’t going to be able to go much faster even if I wanted to!

I did my last video clip before it got dark just before the start of the last long climb up. Listening back to it I sound positive and in good spirits. I was on my own for the climb but that was fine. When I reached the car park I was slightly envious of all the support cars and especially campervans! It would have been great to be able to sit down in a warm van for a few minutes!

I kept on going and headed up the hill. It wasn’t too long but Alex caught me again. He had stopped and almost felt a little guilty when he told me he’d had a nice cup of coffee!! He was moving really well and after a few minutes he was away and I saw a post on Facebook saying he had finished really well.

One or two other runners went past me. They probably had stopped at Square Corner as well and were now moving well. I saw Andy & Sarah at the side of the path getting an extra layer or two on. That’s a good idea I thought as it was now starting to get dark and the temperature was dropping.

I made a big mistake here! I really should have stopped and put on an extra layer but having just caught up with Andy & Sarah I decided to keep going and stay with them. It was really good to have their company again but over the next 30-40mins I got really cold.

So much so that I knew it wasn’t sensible. When you are cold your body has to work harder to keep your core warm and so there isn’t as much energy for the running. But still I carried on not wanting to fall behind Andy & Sarah.

I knew the woods weren’t too far away so I decided to stop there, put on my spare layer and put on my head torch. The other issue I had was I hadn’t eaten for a while and that certainly didn’t help. Andy held the gate open for me and I said I was stopping to put on an extra layer. I was hoping to see them again but I didn’t!!

It took a few minutes to take off my bag, gloves and jacket …. find my spare layer, put it on and put my jacket and gloves back on and get going. It took a while to feel warm again but eventually I did. I also ate a packet of peanuts I’d picked up at the last checkpoint which went down well.

I knew the next checkpoint with my drop bag was a couple of miles away so I concentrated on getting there. I did a fair bit of counting to keep myself going and tried not to think about the mistakes I’d just made! It just goes to show that even with 51 ultras behind me I’m still capable of messing things up!!

It was good to get to the checkpoint and I stopped for a few minutes to eat my yogurt and drink my chocolate milk shake. The marshals once again were doing a great job of keeping everyone going.

Jon Steele was just leaving and called out, ‘Anyone want a lift to Osmotherley Square Corner?’ He didn’t have any takers!!

Sneck Yate to Helmsley (14.14 miles) Overall 53.44 miles

My main aim was to try and finish well and just keep going as best as I could. In the back of my mind I knew that I have a 100 mile race coming up in two weeks and I really needed to finish sensibly without completely hurting myself.

So I tried to break it down in my head into lots of mini-sections. I know the route pretty well so I was able to think about what was coming next, tick it off and head for the next one.

I was mainly on my own but every now and then a runner or two would go past. They all seemed to be moving better than I was at this stage.

There were plenty of campervans at Sutton Bank waiting for their runners. I crossed the road and headed to the last checkpoint at White Horse. One of the nice things about this section is you get to see runners who are heading back as it is a loop. As everyone is wearing head torches it’s quite tricky to recognise anyone but that doesn’t matter too much!

The steps down through the woods were quite slippy so I held on to the wooden rail all the way down. It was very dark and also very muddy through the woods. A couple more runners went past before I arrived at the checkpoint.

One of the issues I’ve had in long ultras especially those going into a second night is with my eyesight. I’ve had it tested and I have a lazy eye which means when I’m tired I see double and it can be difficult to judge what is a stone or rock and what is my double vision. I often have to close one eye to work it out. It wasn’t as bad as it has been but I was definitely struggling with my vision with the head torch on.

There were a couple of enthusiastic marshals who were giving lots of encouragement to the runners as we passed through. I didn’t stop long as I had enough water to see me through to the end. I did take a couple of fudge bars which I ate on the steps up out of the checkpoint. There were a couple of girls behind me and it was obvious they weren’t big fans of the steps!

I knew it was 9 miles from here to the end and I split it down to 3 x 3 mile sections to Cold Kirby, to the bridge on the road and the end. So I concentrated on each section at a time. Three parkruns isn’t too hard!

Once again a few runners went past me. I reckon they had stopped at the checkpoint and were now off again moving well. I caught one runner who had gone past me earlier. We had a quick chat for a bit before I pushed on.

Cold Kirkby came and went. There were a few cars waiting for their runners. Just 6 miles to go. I looked at my watch for the first time for ages and realised I was going to be well over 14hrs. I’m not after pity here but I did think about the previous 6 Hardmoors 55 races I’ve done and the fact that my best is 9hrs 35mins. Even last year in worse weather I was 12hrs 49mins.

I know I’m getting slower as I get older but it’s hard to accept sometimes! Maybe I should just new races so I don’t have anything to compare it with but there are some races I really enjoy and this is one of them so I will be back!!

I knew the final tricky descent was coming soon. Just as I arrived there I caught up with a runner and his support. The runner was covered in mud and said he’d had a fall and hurt his wrist. He was taking it very carefully down the slippy technical bit. His support runner was great giving lots of help and encouragement.

Once on the better path I saw two runners ahead and wondered whether they might be Andy & Sarah but once I caught them I realised it wasn’t!! The Norman’s were well ahead finishing in 13hrs 49mins.

The final 3 mile section passed fairly easily. I chatted to a few more runners on the way in. Again I ticked off the final landmarks and thought about how I felt finishing the Hardmoors 160 a few years ago.

There were a group of people waiting at the bottom of the hill for their runners which was nice to see. I ran in with Andy who is a friend of Martin Webb who ran the Northern Traverse the same year I did it a couple of years ago.

It was good to arrive at the checkpoint in a time of 14hrs 22mins 35secs. Katrina was at the finish to meet me and drive us backto Guisborough and a well deserved shower. Katrina had done her own ultra helping out at the finish from 3-10pm!

It was by far my worse time on the course but another finish and 55 more miles to add to my Hardmoors miles! I reckon I’m now up to 917 miles which leaves me 83 miles still to do!!

Thanks again to Jon & Shirley and all their amazing marshals and volunteers. They did an incredible job in difficult circumstances.

Congratulations to Ann Brown who won my ‘Guess My Time’ competition. Her guess of 13:39:00 was the closest!

My overall stats show I slowed from an average pace of just under 14mins per mile at half way to just over 16mins by the end.

I have two weeks to recover and get ready for the South Downs Way 100 on Saturday 7th November. It is going to be interesting!!

Watch out for my Video Diary of the race which is coming soon!

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Guess My Time entries – Hardmoors 55

Thank you to all who have entered my latest competition. I’ve had 115 guesses.

If you want to follow my progress and the race here is the link to the tracker.

I’m number 198

They break down as follows

  • Over 13hrs – 15 guesses
  • Bronze sub 13hrs – 30 guesses
  • Silver sub 12hrs 30mins – 37 guesses
  • Gold sub 12hrs – 33 guesses

Here is a list of all the entries

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Vuelio Spotlight

I was asked by Vuelio to be on their Spotlight of the week

Here is the answers I gave to their questions

With 51 ultra-races under his belt, 61-year-old running enthusiast John Kynaston knows what it takes to stay motivated. Read today’s Spotlight interview for his favourite running routes and the best snacks to pack next time you head out.

What got you into running as a hobby and what keeps you passionate about it as a way to keep fit?
As long I can remember I have always enjoyed running. In school, I was one of the children who loved the cross-country season and athletics in the summer.
Throughout my life I have always run, and at 61 I continue to enjoy it. In 2006 I discovered ultra-running, as it combined my love of the mountains and running, and I’ve not looked back. I have now completed 51 ultras.

What’s your favourite thing to post about and why?
I love to write up race reports as it gives me a chance to reflect on the race and share my thoughts on what went well and what didn’t. This gives me a chance to learn for future races.

Did you take part in the London Marathon this year?
I’ve never run the London Marathon as I prefer the trails over road and smaller fields rather than mass events.

Do you think the different format of the Marathon, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, was a good idea?
I think anything that helps to motivate people to run is a good thing. It has obviously been difficult this year with so many races cancelled so all the virtual races that have been going on have been really good.

How did you change your approach and content during lockdown?
I decided to try and keep ticking over and maintain my fitness so I ran five times a week as normal but my longer runs were shortened from around 25 to 15 miles.

What’s the best route you’ve ever taken for a run?
My favourite has to be on the West Highland Way. This race is the one that introduced me to ultra-running and I love the various sections and the variety.
Having said that, I have many close seconds from the Lake District, to the Cleveland Way, to Wainwright’s Coast to Coast, the Dragon’s Back route, etc, etc!

Best snacks/drinks to take along for a race?
Chia Charge bars …. But I’m slightly biased as they sponsor the podcast I host every week called ‘Run to the Hills’.

What advice would you give to someone who’s never been into running but would like to start?
Find someone to run with and learn from them. When you start it can be quite hard going so having a friend to run with who can help motivate can make the difference to whether you stick at it.

How do you collaborate with brands, and which kind of brands do you really like working with?
The main one is Chia Charge, who make flapjacks using chia seeds. also provides prizes for my ‘Guess My Time’ competitions I run where friends try to guess how long I will take in a race. I started this for my first ultra in 2007 and it has been a tradition ever since!

For PRs looking to work with you and your blog/website, how would you prefer they approach you and with what kind of content?
Email is the best way (regarding content anything to do with running in general and ultra running in particular).

What other blogs do you check out regularly?
I have a number of running blogs I read regularly and enjoy.

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Tips on finishing well

As part of my new job hosting the podcast / YouTube channel ‘Run to the Hills’ my co host Edwina Sutton and I take turns to share a top tip and write a blog post which is posted on the Chia Charge website.

I thought I would also share them on my own blog so here is my post from this week.

I ran my first ultra, 53 mile Highland Fling, in 2007 and for the first three years I improved year on year. Then for the next 2 years I had some real struggles especially in the longer 100 mile races. I was proud of the fact that I finished them but it wasn’t pretty as I death marched the final 15 miles or so.

I wondered at 53 yrs old that my ability to ‘enjoy’ a 100 mile race were over and that I would do better to stick to the 50 mile distance but I wasn’t ready to call it a day just yet.

So in 2013 I went back to the West Highland Way with a single goal – to finish well. I wasn’t too bothered about my overall time but I wanted to be able to enjoy the final 14 miles from Kinlochleven and finish with a smile on my face.

I realised that to achieve this aim I would have to start a lot more sensibly. This is what I did and for the first 70 miles or so I looked after myself and made sure I kept my goal in mind. I had a little wobble just after Glencoe but it was almost like my mind was saying if you want to finish well you need to ease off for the next hour or so. 

This is what I did and by the time I reached Kinlochleven I felt in good shape and ready to see if my aim was to be fulfilled.  I ran / walked the final 14 miles as fast as I had when I ran my sub 20hr times and more importantly I did finish with a smile on my face having really enjoyed the whole race.

Over the next few years I worked on this goal of finishing well and one of the things that really helped was running to heart rate especially over the first 5-6 hrs. A friend, Robert Osfield, worked out what should be my target heart rate for different distances based on previous races.

The race that I felt it really came together was the 2015 Lakeland 100. In 2012 I did the race and it took me 34hrs 33mins 59secs and I really struggled over the second half. I felt I was capable of running under 30hrs and that became my goal.

I knew that I had to start a lot more conservatively if I wanted to be able to be running the downhills in the second half of the race.

So I set off with a plan to keep my heart rate below 125 for as long as I could. It took a lot of discipline as on the climb out of Coniston so many people went past me as I had to ease off to keep my heart rate down.

By the time I arrived at the first checkpoint at Seathwaite I was in 201st position out of 304 starters. But from then on I made my way up the field and finished in 60th position in a time of 29hrs 26mins 25secs

Here is a summary of my positions at each checkpoint

 I made a navigational mistake before Braithwaite which accounts for the leg position to CP5!

I was pleased with my pacing. Here is another graph which shows my overall pace compared to my friends Dave Troman and Jonny Rowan.

 I was still slowing down over the course of the race but a lot less than the previous attempt in 2012 which this final graph shows. Red line is 2012 and blue line is 2015

Based on my experiences of the last few years here are my top tips for finishing well.

  • Be realistic with your time goal – if you are aiming for a time which is beyond you then the tendency is to push too hard from the start to keep to it.
  • Start really comfortably – I have heard of runners deliberately starting right at the back. One year in the West Highland Way a lady walked the first mile allowing everyone to disappear and then over the course of 95 miles caught the majority of them finishing in under 23hrs.
  • Walk the hills early on so you can keep your heart as low as possible. Make sure you are not breathing too hard. I have been amazed in races where runners going past me in the first hour or so sound as though they are doing a hard 10k run.
  • Trust your strategy – It does take discipline to allow runners to push on but if you get it right you will see them again!
  • Enjoy the feeling of catching people in the second half of a race – psychologically it is so much better catching people over the last third of a race than being caught!

I love the fact that there are so many ways to run an ultra and many will have a different approach to this one but if you have had some ‘tough’ finishes I would encourage you to try this approach and see if it works for you!

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Guess My Time – Hardmoors 55

This will be my first proper ultra of the year after a couple of ‘virtual’ races in the summer.

I love the Hardmoors 55 having run it 6 times before. This race was due to be in March but it was postponed to October.

I’m really looking forward to running the course from Guisborough to Helmsley again. It will be interesting to see what the conditions will be like in October rather than March.

It is fair to say it can’t be any worse than 2018 when I ran with Katrina and the race was stopped at Kildale due to the ‘Beast from the East.’ Then last year in 2019 we had rain and wind in our faces for the whole route!!

Here is a summary of my 6 Hardmoors 55 races

To help you with my ‘Guess My Time’ competition were you have to guess how long it will take me to run the 55 miles here are my bronze, silver and gold goals.

I have the South Downs Way 100 two weeks after the Hardmoors 55 so I’m going to take it a little easier that I normally would as I want to be able to recover in time for the longer race.

  • Bronze – sub 13hrs
  • Silver – sub 12hrs 30mins
  • Gold – sub 12hrs is once again providing a great prize. This time it is an Ultimate Direction Ultra Belt 5.0

Plus a limited edition key ring!

So please send you guess by 5pm on Thursday 22nd October 2020 by

  • leaving a comment on this post
  • Facebook
  • Twitter – @jkynaston
  • Email –
  • Text – 07905 218162
  • any other method!


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Review of September 2020

During September I continued to train for the Hardmoors 55 and South Downs Way 100. I ran a total of 144.63 miles. Plus I did a fair amount, for me, of cycling as I’ve been taking cycling groups on Monday and Tuesday as part of my work as an Active Schools Coordinator.

List of all my runs this month

Summary of my runs this year so far

In total this year I have ran 1434.07 which means I’m 81.15 miles behind the red line in my target of running 2020 miles this year. I’m not going to make a special effort to catch up. If I get there great but it’s no problem if I don’t!

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Review of August 2020

In August I ran a total of 147.84 miles and it felt like a ticking over month after the virtual Lakeland 100 at the end of July.

It also felt a significant month as I really feel I have turned a corner in my running and for the first time since the Dragon’s Back in May 2019 I feel I’m running a little stronger again.

Summary of my runs

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Cycles during August

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In my goal of running 2020 miles in 2020 I’m 59.88 miles below the red line but I’ve entered the South Downs Way 100 in November so I’m hoping that race and my training for it will push me closer to the target!

Screenshot 2020-09-01 at 06.54.04

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