Book Review – Marathon Woman

Marathon Woman Book Review
by Kathrine Switzer


This autobiography was republished in 2017 to celebrate the 50th year of Kathrine Switzer’s run in the Boston Marathon when it was a men’s only race.

I was aware, like many others, of the basic facts of Kathrine’s story. How in 1967 she ran the Boston Marathon having entered under the name K. Switzer. The photos of the race director, Jock Semple, trying to pull her off the course are so familiar to most people who know anything about the marathon.

But that is basically all I knew! The book does an amazing job in filling in all the details of how Kathrine trained and built up to the race and all that she did to promote Woman’s running especially in campaigning to get it added as an Olympic event.

The book is so easy to read and page after page I found myself amazed that all this took place within my lifetime. I’m part of the ultra scene where it is just taken for granted that woman compete in races along men.

This year I helped support runners doing the Hardmoors 200 and there were a number of women who completed that race successfully. And that is only the tip of the distances that men and women are completing these days.

What I didn’t realise as well is that masters men were considered too old to compete in the marathon.

‘The Masters runners were important because their development are not dissimilar to the women’s, and we were very supportive of one another. We were pioneers in breaking down gender restrictions in running, and they were pioneers in breaking down barriers of aging.’ (page 182)

The book is divided into six sections ..

Part I: Base
The first five chapters tell Kathrine’s story of her childhood, family and love of running from an early age.

Part II: Build-Up
The next five chapters show how Kathrine trained and built up for the marathon. I wasn’t sure how she ended up on the start line before I read this book but now I do! She trained and trained hard and was well prepared to run the marathon distance.

Kathrine ran regularly with an experienced runner, Arnie, who passed on his many stories of running the Boston Marathon. In those days in the sixties it was a very small event made up largely of elite faster runners.

The chapters on the race itself were excellent and even though I knew she had finished it was riveting to follow her journey and all she had to go through to get to that finish line.

Plus once she had finished the media attention on her was enormous and how she dealt with that is again really interesting and insightful.

Part III: Sharpening
The rest of the book is Kathrine’s story for the next 50 years. I didn’t know any of this so it was fascinating to follow her story of her career both professionally as a sports journalist in a male dominated industry and her running as a runner and also as a race organiser.

Runners today, especially women and older men, have so much to thank Kathrine and others for. They worked hard and broke down so many barriers and obstacles so we can enjoy the events we take for granted.

Slowly but surely woman were allowed to run Marathons and other key races throughout America and the world.

Part IV: Warm-Up
Kathrine’s big goal was to see the Woman’s Marathon in the Olympics. This was her life’s goal really and the chapters in this part show just how hard she had to work to make it happen.

The key was her involvement with the Avon International Marathon who Kathrine worked for. They organised Woman’s races around the world which was a key factor in the Olympic committee allowing the Marathon into the Olypmics.

Part V: The Race
The key to it all was the Avon International London Marathon in 1980. This was a year before Chris Brasher organised the first official London Marathon.

Kathrine’s event was the first marathon around the streets of London which paved the way for Chris Brasher’s event but was absolutely key for seeing the Woman’s Marathon in the Olympics.

The Avon Marathon was the final event of a series of Marathon’s around the world so fulfilled the key criteria for the Olympics that a new sport had to be contested on three continents and twenty-five countries.

Part VI: Breakthrough
Kathrine and all those who campaigned with her were finally able to get approval for the Woman’s Marathon to be held in Los Angeles in 1984.

I remember that race well as Jean Benoit in her white cap ran off the front of the field and won convincingly against lots of stronger and faster runners. It was a great performance and showed that the event was here to stay.

The final chapter is a collection of other people who were involved in that 1967 Boston Marathon and helps to see the impact that Kathrine had that day and over the years that followed.

As you can tell I really enjoyed the book and would recommmend it to everyone who loves the Marathon!

Posted in Book Review | 1 Comment

Summary of our third week in Bali

We continue to love our time in Bali. Here is a summary of week three. We spent four nights on Lembongan Island which is a 40 min boat ride away from Sanur. Emma & Yonas had never been to the island so it was a treat for them too.

Sunday 16th July
In the afternoon we spent a few hours in Ubud. Katrina and I went for another massage while Emma, Yonas & Noah wandered round the shops and had an ice cream.

We stopped off at our favourite juice shop on the way home. In the evening once Noah was tucked in bed we had a game of Settlers which Emma won!!

Monday 17th July
We were up at 6am and out the door having had breakfast and a shower for 7am. Our ferry to Lembongan wasn’t until 9am but Yonas needed to drop us off and then leave his car with his brother while we were away.

The ferry left on time and was fairly choppy on the way over to Lembongan. We had a bit of a wait for our hotel to send someone for us so in the end Yonas hired a bike and we got ourselves to Taos House which wasn’t too far away.


The hotel was lovely with big clean rooms and an excellent pool.


After we had settled in and had a swim Katrina and I walked down to Dream beach which was about a 15min walk. Emma, Yonas & Noad came down by bike a bit later.

Dream beach is a lovely spot with very strong waves crashing into the beach. Yonas and I braved the waves and it was great fun.


We had a lovely meal out and once Noah was settled in bed played a game of Rummy which Yonas won convincingly.

Tuesday 18th July
We hired scooters for the day and spent the morning exploring the island. It isn’t that big so it only takes 20mins to drive from one end to the other. We ended up at Mushroom beach where we had some lunch and went for a swim.


While Noah slept Katrina & I went back to Mangrove Beach at the top end of the island and went for a boat tour of the Mangrove swamp. It was so peaceful and relaxing and cool as the trees provided a shade from the sun.


When Noah woke up we returned to Dream beach for a play in the sand and another swim. For our evening meal Katrina & I made use of the bike and went back over the yellow bridge and found a lovely resteraunt over looking the sea.

Wednesday 19th July
I fancied doing a snorkeling trip but as no-one else was keen I went on my own. I joined about 12 other tourists and we visited 3 sites over the next 3 hours. Each site was slightly different and we saw lots of amazing fish and coral. I’m really glad I went.


Plus the route took us right around the island by speed boat so it was interesting to see the island from the sea. There is quite a hill in the middle. As we didn’t have the bikes today we wanted down to Mushroom Beach for lunch and then Emma & I hired stand up Paddle boards for an hour.


It was great fun and once we got our balance we did quite well! I found I was okay when it was fairly calm but each time a speed boat went out and created some waves I was back in the water. At least it is lovely and warm!!

As it was Yonas’ birthday we volunteered to look after Noah for the night so they could go out for a meal on their own to celebrate. We had great fun looking after Noah. We are really enjoying getting to know him. He is such a character and so easy going.

Thursday 20th July
We hired bikes again for the day and explored some places that we didn’t go to on Tuesday.


We stopped off at a viewing point which looked out to the larger Penida island. I was also able to see the coves where I did my snorkelling.


Our favourite spot was Secret beach which was a lovely secluded beach with a hotel and swimming pool.


If you want somewhere quiet and out of the way then I would recommend this location!


In their afternoon we had a relaxing time at the hotel. Noah & I had great fun in the pool. For our final meal on the island we went to L.Good resteraunt. They did a lovely BBQ with a help yourself salad bar so we definitely got value for money! Yonas & I had the Pork ribs which were excellent.



Friday 21st July
We spent the morning in the hotel before checking out and catching the 11am ferry back to Sanur. This one was a lot faster and we were back over on the mainland in 25 mins!

We had a such a great time on Lembongan. It felt like a holiday within a holiday! It the vending we had another game of Rummy which I’m glad to report I won!

Saturday 22nd July
Yonas had a driving job this morning so we are having a slower day at home. We are going out for lunch once Yonas gets back. I’ve been following closely the Tour de France and the Open Golf via podcasts and the various websites. There are some great clips on YouTube as well so I’m keeping up to date with various sporting events!

Today is the ultra in Bali that I was hoping to do! I still feel disappointed that I’m not able to run it but hopefully one year when we visit I’ll be able to do it!

My ankle is still sore but it is feeling better. I go through days when I think I’ll definitely be able to run the Run O’ Fire in September and then other days I think there is no way it will be ready. I’ve arranged to see Matt (Physio) again when I get home so between us we should have a better idea.

The highlight of our final week in Bali is out planned hike up Mt Agung. It is over 10,000 high and looks incredible. We could see it from Lembongan.


It is a two hour drive from here to the point where we will meet our guide at 11pm. It is a 6 hour walk to the top. The plan is to arrive as the sun rises which I’m told is an incredible sight. We then walk back down.

Katrina is a bit nervous about it but she’ll be fine!! Yonas is also going to come and he is also worried about whether he will make it to the top. Report to come!!

Posted in Holiday | Leave a comment

Summary of our second week in Bali

We continue to really enjoy our holiday in Bali visiting Emma, Yonas and Noah. Here is a summary of our second week.

Sunday 9th July
In the afternoon we drove to Kuta to attend the Hillsong Church. It was a long drive as the traffic was pretty busy. We had a drink before the service. It was good to visit and a guy John, from Australia, spoke on Jacob and was really good.

The journey back was also quite long so I don’t think Emma & Yonas will be doing that every week!

Monday 10th July
We had to return the bikes to Ubud today so I cycled the 15miles while Katrina’s bike went in the car. Katrina’s seat and set up meant it wasn’t very easy to ride so that was the best option.


I went a slightly different route which past lots of different shops selling kites and wood sculptures. It was really interesting.

I met up with the rest of the family in Ubud and we went off for a lovely lunch. We do like Ubud! There are lots of really interesting shops and lots of people wandering around.


Tuesday 11th July
In the morning after playing with Noah I wrote my book review on ‘The Running Revolution’ for my blog. I will do one on Steve Birkinshaw’s book soon. I’m reading ‘Marathon Woman’ by Kathy Switzer which is excellent. Again book review to come!

Yonas’ brother works in a lovely hotel in Sanur so he was able to book us into a deluxe room for two nights which gives us the chance to have a few days on our own and Emma to have a break!



Emma & Noah came with us to the hotel and we all enjoyed a swim in the hotel pool before having a wander down to the beach and some food before they headed home and we retired to our hotel.

Wednesday 12th July
Hollie’s 25th birthday! Yet another year when we are not with her. I’ve lost count of the number of different countries she has celebrated her birthday. This year she is in Ruwanda where she is part of an group of teachers who have gone to support local teachers. It sounds as though she is having a great time!

After our superb hotel breakfast we hired a coulple of bikes for the day and went for a ride down the length of Sanur beach which was good fun.


I found a guy who was hiring Windsurfers so I took one out for an hour. I used to windsurf fairly regularly before I met Katrina which is over 30 years ago! It took me a few minutes to get going but once I did I was away and loved it. There was a constant wind and plenty to get a good speed up.


We then went for lunch at the Bread Basket which was Hollie’s favourite place to eat when she visited in Easter. So we have a sandwich to celebrate her birthday!

After lunch we went to Hardys store which is a famous shop in Sanur which seeks everything. As we walked in this guy offered us a couple of scratch card type things. We opened them to discover that I had won 2 t-shirts and vouchers for 200,000 (about £12). When Katrina opened hers she had won the star prize. Either a 7 day hotel in a Karma Hotel or a GoPro Camera or 2,000,000 in cash (£120).

We were excited. Well I was hoping that it was the GoPro!! To collect out prize we had to go to the hotel which seemed fair enough. Before we knew what was happening we were in a taxi heading to the hotel.

I assumed it was the one in Sanur but no it was about 30mins away! On the way there I did have second thoughts thinking that this could be a trap and we were about to be kidnapped!

It was nothing as sinister as that but just before we arrived the agent said that to get our prize we would have to talk to another agent for an hour about becoming members of the Karma group!!

Now we understood what this was about but in for a penny! Our representative Frank turned out to be a really nice guy from Glasgow in his 60’s . He realised pretty soon that we had no intention of becoming members so we chatted for the regulation hour before she was able to let us go!

The prize Katrina won was a 7 day holiday in one of 5 resorts. One of them is in Germany so we are going to look into that one and if we can find some reasonable flights we might use it! I was disappointed it wasn’t the GoPro!!

We had a taxi back to Hardys where we had left our bikes. We spent the vouchers and continued on our way. So a three hour excursion which was actually quite fu in the end and gave us a glimpse of the luxury some people enjoy on holiday! All the hotels are 5 star and very posh!!

In the evening we had a lovely meal on the beach before heading back to our hotel to watch another episode of Designated Survivor and follow Murray’s quarter final game on my phone. It was sad to see he lost in five sets but it sounded as though his hip injury flared up again.

Thursday 13th July
We spent a relaxing morning at the hotel reading and having a swim. He hcecked out at 12pm and hired bikes again for the day. This time I got one with a child’s seat as we were going to meet the rest of their family later.

We enjoyed a ride along the beach and then met Emma, Yonas & Noah at the Bread Basket for lunch. After lunch Katrina & I took Noah for a bike ride. Noah loved it and was busy chatting away and pointing at lots of things, especially dogs, as we cycled along the beach.


We met up again with Emma & Yonas and then they went off to meet their American friends Brad & Jana. We joined them for a meal and then headed home.

Friday 14th July
Katrina & I had booked in to do the Green School tour. It lasted just over an hour and it was so good to be able to see where Emma will be teaching. It is an amazing school with a very interesting educational outlook as well and some amazing bamboo architecture.

I did a video of our visit with more photos which again I’ll upload when I can.

It was fun to think that Noah will be going to this school as well. They have a pre-kindergarten so he’ll be able to start that when he is 3.

We spent the rest of their day relaxing at home but we did have an afternoon outing to our favourite juice cafe.

In the evening we played our card game and then had a FaceTime chat with Jo who is staying at our house in Paisley. Jono is building new cupboards for us and they are looking great!

Saturday 15th July
Yonas is taking Brad & Jana to the airport so we are having an easy morning. I wrote up my book review of Steve Birkinshaw’s book while listening to podcasts from Le Tour de France, Wimbledon and the Test March against South Africa.

In the afternoon Emma & Yonas took us on a trip to an amazing water. Tegenungan was about 30mins away and we had such a good time. I did a video of our trip which I’ll try and upload at some point but here are a few photos.



Sunday 16th July
Our plan today is to have a relaxing morning while Noah sleeps and then have another trip to Ubud where Katrina & I plan to have another massage.

We continue to enjoy various games in the evening with our favourite being a rummy type card game. I’m also happy to report that I have won a few games!!

While we are away our son-in-law Jono has been busy building a new cupboard in our bedroom. It is looking great! Thanks Jono.




Posted in Holiday | Leave a comment

There is no map in hell – book review

There is no map in hell
by Steve Birkinshaw

I first saw this book when I was supporting Andy & Sarah on their Hardmoors 200. My friend Peter Wilkie was reading it while he waited for his runner at Ravenscar checkpoint. I asked him what it was like and he said he was loving it and I would enjoy it.

A few days later the book arrived by post! Thanks Peter. I have been looking forward to reading it as I decided to save it for our holiday to Indonesia. I wasn’t quite sure about the title and having read the book I’m still not sure! But that is the only negative thing to say!


For those who haven’t heard of Steve he is an elite fell/ultra runner who has won lots of top quality races including multi-stage races like Dragon’s Back.

The main part of the book is about his successful record of running all 214 Wainwrights in the Lake District. He ran faster than the record set by Jos Naylor in 1984. Steve ran it in 7 days and 1 hour.

The book is divided into four sections.

Part 1 I have always run
These chapters help to get to know Steve before he took on the Wainwright challenge. I knew a little about him but after reading these chapters I had a lot better understanding.

Steve has done all the main rounds in England, Scotland and Wales as well as winning the Lakeland 100 and Dragon’s Back. Plus he had a couple of goes at the Lake District 24hr record where he learnt a lot for the main challenge.

Part 2 Considering the challenge
Like all challenges of this nature there is so much preparation to do both physically and logistically and these chapters help the reader to get a glimpse into what goes into an attempt like this.

Steve has a full time job so all the training and preparation is done outside of work hours which makes it even more amazing.

Part 3 Taking on the Wainwrights
This is the heart of the book and each chapter is a day of the challenge. Steve writes in a very honest and at time matter of fact way about how he was feeling. Obviously there are going to be highs and lows and the chapters record those moments really well.

I was surprised that he had struggles almost from day 1 but how he overcame those and kept going makes compelling reading.

I would imagine the majority of us could never even run at his pace for one day let alone seven but the thing that encouraged me was that he goes through the same battles that I have but at a different pace!

There is so much to learn from the way he got through the tough times and was able to keep moving. From day 3 he was suffering from really bad blisters but was able to deal with them and keep on going to the end.

I also enjoyed the sections from those around him including his wife and kids, support runners and logistic team. It made me realise that this record attempt was far from certain right until the last day.

Part 4 The Aftermath
The final few chapters were about how he recovered from the challenge and he reflected on the achievement.

I really enjoyed the book and would fully recommend it to anyone who loves a challenge! We can all identify with Steve’s struggles even if we can’t quite grasp running that fast for that long!!



Posted in Book Review | Leave a comment

The Running Revolution – book review

The Running Revolution
By Dr Nicholas Romanov with Kurt Brungardt


I first came across the Pose Method of running as outlined by Dr Romanov over ten years ago when a former pupil from Hebron School, Peter McKnight, told me about it when we were out for a run.

At the time I was having some problems with my calves and thought it would be good to try a different way of running. I don’t think I went 100% with the method as it does take a lot of practice and effort but I did consciously try and land on my forefoot rather than heal striking and to lean forward rather than back.

Over the last ten years there have been a variety of books encouraging runners to try and find a more natural way to run rather than relying on lots of cushioning on the heal.

When I was sent a copy of Dr. Romanov’s latest book I was looking forward to reading it and seeing how his ideas have developed. This book with co written with Kurt Brungardt who has twenty years of writing about exercise.

The book is in four parts and is the sort of book that if you do it properly and to the letter will take you many weeks to work through. I have read it while on holiday so I’ve not done all the programme but I will aim to give you an idea of the content.

Part 1 Preparing for the Pose
In these seven chapters the authors outline the principles of the Pose Method of running. I found these chapters really helpful as it gives you the background to this way of running and how it works together.

They encourage runners to keep a journal and also how to video yourself so you can monitor improvement and progress. There is also a helpful chapter on choosing the right shoes to be able to practice the Pose Method of running.

Part 2 Ten Lessons
These ten lessons are the heart of the book and if followed carefully will help runners change their running style to one which is more natural and helps prevent injury according to the authors.

The ten lessons cover each of the main elements in the technique and build up lesson on lesson. Each chapter is carefully explained with lots of pictures and explanations and would be easy to follow.

As I mentioned I’ve not put these chapters into practice so I can’t say how easy/hard it would be to follow. I’m now 58 and have been running regularly since I was about 14 years old so I do wonder whether it’s too late for me to try and change how I run but having said that I have altered my style but maybe not to fully take in the Pose Method.

I’m injured at the moment with a sore Tibilais Posterior Tendon injury and I’m wondering whether it would be a good idea to do follow these chapters when I’m able to run again. My particular problem is that I have a bunion on my right foot which does alter how I land and push off which is my particular problem!

The technique encourages a forefront landing so maybe that would be helpful for me so watch this space!

Part 3 The Running Circuit
Going to the Next Level

This next section is a nine week transition period to help the runner move on. It is all about quality over quantity. There are chapters on becoming your own coach and various exercises to strengthen your core.

Part 4 Take it the limit

The final section of the book gives the runner various programmes for running a 5K, 10K, Half Marathon and Marathon.

Overall I found the book really helpful for someone who is looking to change their running style to the Pose Method of running. It will take a lot of discipline and time but would be well worth it.

I think there are various courses you can take and on line videos you can sign up for to help with the transition.

Posted in Book Review | Leave a comment

Summary of our first week in Bali

I thought I would do a weekly update from our holiday in Bali. We are here a month visiting our daughter Emma, son-in-law Yonas and grandson Noah! We visited Bail four years ago when Emma and Yonas were married. Then two years ago just after Noah was born we visited Malang where they lived until a few weeks ago.

I’ve not been able to run yet but my ankle is definitely getting better. I’ve doing my rehab exercises at least twice a day. I have been able to get out cycling most days which has been good.

So here is a run down of our first week …

Journey …
Saturday 1st July
2pm Taxi to airport
3.45pm Flight to Dublin (1hr 15mins)
7pm Flight to Abu Dhabi (7hrs 20mins)
Sunday 2nd July
6am (local time) Arrived in Abu Dhabi 4hrs 45mins in airport
10.45am Flight to Jakarta (8hrs 30mins)
11.45pm Arrived in Jakarta – hotel D’Prima for the night
Monday 3rd July
10.15am Flight to Bali (2hrs 25mins)
12.55pm Arrived in Bali and meet up with Emma, Yonas & Noah
3.30pm Arrived at home, relaxed and met neighbours!

Summary of each day …
We are enjoying spending lots of time with Noah who is just over two and such a lovely character.

Tuesday 4th July
Trip to Ubud (about 30mins by car)
Katrina had a massage while Yonas helped me sort out a local SIM card so I can keep in touch with news, especially sports news – Wimbledon, Tour de France, Test Match vs South Africa – as well as friends running various ultra races.
We hired two bikes for the week. Emma & I cycled them home



Wednesday 5th July
In the morning Katrina and I went for a short cycle ride but I’m not sure Katrina enjoyed it too much! Her seat is quite uncomfortable and the amount of motorbikes and cars on the rode freaked her out a bit. I loved it!

In their afternoon we had an outing to Sanur which is about 45mins away. Sanur is one of the main beach resorts and is a lovely place to have so close. We did some shopping and had a wander down the beach. I found a guy who hires windsurfers so I think I’ll have a go at that next week when Katrina and I are going to have a couple of nights in a hotel.



Thursday 6th July
I went out for a longer cycle ride (17miles) on my own.


With my local SIM card I can use my strava app which means I can see where I am the whole time and makes it easier to navigate around. It was a lovely ride through the local rice fields. I took some video clips and made a little video which I will upload when I have some wifi.


In the afternoon Katrina, Emma & I had a a walk to the Green School where Emma has her new job. We weren’t able to go in yet as Emma doesn’t have her pass but we were able to book a tour for next Friday which we are really looking forward to. It will be great to see where Emma will be teaching and find out more about the school.

Once Noah woke up we went for a juice at their favourite shack …


Most evenings we play various games including Bohnanza, Settlers and a card game which Yonas has taught us. I’m yet to win a game of anything!!

Friday 7th July
Initially Katrina & I were going to cycle to Ubud but it rained all night and was still raining during the day so we opted for a shopping trip to Kuta instead. There are lots of retail shops and fancy shopping malls so it was a good option.

We also had a lovely meal out.



I spent most of the time in the shops chasing Noah round which suited me just fine!! Noah is such an independent character and loves to explore. It is so much fun following him round to see where he wants to go!


In the evening Katrina & I watched a couple of episodes of ‘Designated Survivor’ I was able to download it onto my iPad from Netflix before we left. It is a great series and I would recommended it!

Saturday 8th July
I was out for another cycle ride but this time in the pouring rain! At least it was still warm. I did a different loop going past the Zoo and Bird Park. I didn’t stop for as many photos this time as it was pretty wet!


As it was still raining and Katrina didn’t fancy getting soaked cycling Yonas gave us a lift to Ubud and then they all came to pick us later in the day.

Katrina & I went for a massage which was great and then had some lunch and wandered around the many shops. There are loads of tourists around speaking a whole variety of languages. There are lots of Australians as it is only a 6hr flight from Sydney.

Sunday 9th July
I’ve been out for another ride this morning. This time in the dry. Once back YOnas gave me a hair and beard cut!


After lunch we are heading back to Kuta where we are going to go to the Hillsong Church at 5pm for the service which we are looking forward to.

I have enjoyed reading Steve Birkinshaw’s book ‘There is no map in hell’ about his record of running all 214 Wainwrights in the Lake District. It is a strange title which isn’t really explained but the book is superb and well worth a read. I’ll do a review on another post.


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

West Highland Way Race report

Saturday 24th June 2017

I wasn’t sure I was going to write a race report for this my 41st ultra as sadly I had to dnf (did not finish) but our good friend Caroline said she was looking forward to reading it so here goes!

As I came onto the beach section about 21 miles into the race I started to accept my situation. I was going to dnf (did not finish) an ultra for the first time. This was my 7th West Highland Way and 41st ultra in total since I started in 2007.

A few more runners went past including good friend Lesley. I was feeling very sorry for myself and I could feel tears were welling up in my eyes. I had thought I could at least get to Beinglas Farm where Katrina was due to take over support duties or Rowardennan where Jonny was due to finish his spell.

But as acceptance hit home I realised that even those modest targets were beyond me. Every step now was painful and it was only going to get worse if I continued to stubbornly push on.

The tears that were forming came rushing out now as I accepted the fact that I was going to stop. As I came onto the road Calum (Lesley’s husband) was waiting for me. He had some tape and offered to patch me up if that would help but I was beyond tape!

I bend over in tears and Calum came over and gave me a hug. There was nothing he could say to make it better but I really appreciated his support and friendship.

After a few minutes we got into the car and drove to Sallochy where we met Jonny. We then drove to Rowardennan to give in my timer chip and officially dnf.

Thankfully the marshal at the checkpoint didn’t know me so I was able to hand it in and leave quickly!

As we drove to Balloch Jonny heard the full story. As we work together he has heard a few more times since the race!!

So how did it end like this? To answer that I’ll need to recap my year so far ….

My training had been going pretty well from January when I set out my 6 months plan with the aim of getting to the start line as fit and ready as possible.

I had a really good January followed by a mixed February when I tried to prepare for the National Cross Country and Inverness Half Marathon as well as continue my ultra bulid up. Looking back I struggled to do both and ended up doing neither particularly well.

March was better but I still had some runs when I felt I was struggling a bit. Also a small pain in my ankle developed which as a ‘good’ ultra runner I ignored hoping it would go away.

April was dominated by the Fling when I ran 10:38 which was about 30mins slower that I hoped I could do but was probably about par for my fitness and ability! I was aware of my ankle during the race but as it didn’t seem to hinder me I continued to run!

May was a really good month. I had an easy week after the Fling then 3 weeks of 50, 50 and 95 mile weeks. I the middle week I had an encouraging run on the Kilpatricks when I ran 35 mins faster than the same run in March.

The big week included my 3 day recce on the Ring o’ Fire course in Anglesea. Again I was conscious of my ankle but as it didn’t stop me running I hoped it settle down soon.

I had an easy week after Anglesea and then ran the Milngavie Trail race the following Sunday. I probably shouldn’t have run as my ankle was quite sore throughout the race but once again as it wasn’t so bad I just kept going.

I had planned to do a medium week with some final harder sessions but I decided to have 5 days off with the hope that the pain woudl ease off.

On Saturday I had arranged to run with Cammie and decided to go ahead. It was two weeks before the race and we had a great run on the Gleniffer Braes chatting about the race. Cammie was in great shape and I knew he was going to do well in the race.

My ankle was sore throughout the run and deep down I knew I was in some trouble. My taper plan was to run every other day for the next two weeks before the race but I decided it would be better to have two weeks off and hope that that would be enough to clear it up.

Also on the advice of others I went to see Matt Williamson, a Physio and friend. Matt was really helpful and identified the problem as my Posterior Tibilais Tendon. He was hopeful with two weeks rest and some rehab exercises it may be okay.

During those two weeks I didn’t run a single step which would not be my normal preparation but I had to trust that this was the only way to give me a chance. As the days went by my ankle definitely felt better but the killer sign was whenever I walked down stairs it was still sore.

I tried to block it out as much as possible and prepare as normal for this great race. I took Friday off and spent the day relaxing and getting my gear and food ready.

At 10.30pm Jonny, my support for the first night, arrived and we headed off to Milngavie at 11pm to register and get reasdy for the start.

I have been on the other side of the table for the past 3 years so it was good to be back on the runners side again. The registration process was very efficient and within a few minutes I was all sorted.

I greeted a few people and then went back to the car for a final rest before the briefing and the start.

Milngavie to Drymen
As soon as I set off I knew I was in trouble. My ankle was sore and basically just got worse with every mile. I was hoping above hope that it would ease off and give me a chance.

I had decided to run to my heart rate of 125 and right from the start I had to ease off to keep it that low. Normally when I’m running well I start abut half way down the field and slowly catch and overtake people.

Not today. I started about half wasy down the field and just went further and further back which did nothing for my confidence.

I ran with Lesley and Cammie for the first few miles and while they looked very comfortable with the pace I was finding it much harder than I should. I felt slugglish and uncomfortable.

I was so conscious of my sore ankle that I tried to change the way I was running which is never a good thing to do.

I ran with Lesley Allen for a while. She was doing her first West Highland Way race and had been given lots of good advice which she was following to the letter. So she was walking all the hills and setting off at a very sensible pace.

When we reached the road section before Drymen my good friend Robert Osfield caught up. Normally I really enjoy chatting to Robert as he had lots of interesting thoughts on ultra running but I just didn’t want to chat! Sorry Robert.

I was going through a real battle as I knew my ankle was not going to ease off and it was only going to get worse.

In my podcast chat with Lesley the following week I said that this first section could be summed up with the word denial. I didn’t want to face up to the truth of what was happening.

I came into Drymen in 2hrs 25mins which was about 10mins slower than my sub 23hr plan. That wasn’t a disaster but the fact that I wasn’t running very easily was.

Drymen to Balmaha
The key word for this section was reality as I started to come to terms with the fact that I was in real trouble and at very best this was going to be a long long day and at worse I was not going to make it.

I wasn’t yet ready to face the fact that I would have to stop so I opted for the first option that this would be a battle to just finish.

As I climbed the first hill out of Drymen I caught up with Cammie who explained that he had missed his support at Drymen and was a bit concerned that he didn’t have enough water.

We walked up the hill together but as soon as we were able to run Cammie was away and I was left behind. When I tried to run my ankle was really sore for the first few strides and then just sore!

Jonny was waiting for me at the start of the forest. Because I was so slow the light was up so I could give him my head torch. I tried to appear positive but I don’t think I fooled him!!

A few more runners went past but I couldn’t do much about it. One of them was Neil MacRitchie on his way to his 13th finish and 100th ultra altogether! It was good to chat to Neil but once we hit the downhill bit to the bottom of Conic HIll he was away and I couldn’t run very easily on that section.

Once I reached the bridge and started climbing my ankle felt a bit easier and I decided to forget about my heart rate and jsut push up as best I could.

I went past Neil and a couple of other runners which was frustrating in its own way as it showed me that my fitness was there but it was my tendon that was letting me down.

Once I reached the top and started the descent reality hit me big time as I literally could not run at all. My ankle was so sore that I couldn’t put any pressure on it and so I was reduced to a slow walk all the way down.

Several more runners went past me and reality was hitting me big time now. What was I going to do? If I can’t run at all then can I make it by walking only? I didn’t really want to face the fact that I was grinding to a halt.

A few more runners went past me on the approach to Balmaha including Lesley who was surprised and concerned to see me. She was moving well and I wished all the best as she ran past me to the checkpoint.

Jonny met me at Balmaha and as we walked to the car I explained my situation. Basically I remember saying that I was not able to run and I was going to walk until the race timed me out!

Balmaha to my dnf

Our initial plan was for Jonny to meet me at Sallochy but he said that he would stay until Rowardennan if that would help.

As I left Balmaha I tried to work out my options. I couldn’t run but if I could walk at 3 miles an hour for the remaining 75 miles I could still beat the cut offs. The problem was I was only walking at 1 mile an hour!

Peter Duggan caught me just as we went past the white cottage. He was working on a very conservative start and was keeping to do it. I wished him well as he set off up the hill.

I slowly made my way up the short hill to the viewpoint where Ryan and Bekki were married 5 years ago. West Highland Way legend Fiona Rennie went past me again having stopped a little longer at Balmaha.

Once over the top and onto the descent acceptance (my third key word) was coming to the forefront of my mind. I just couldn’t put any weight on my ankle so it was a slow painful descent.

My plan of just keeping going until I was timed out seemed a really silly idea. How much damage could I do by walking for another hour or more. I had always promised myself that I would be willing to dnf if I was injured and could do more damage by carrying on.

I was thinking that we have a holiday to Indonesia to visit Emma, Yonas and Noah leaving the following Saturday and if I carried on could I put that in doubt. I knew it wasn’t worth it but acceptance is so hard especially when this race means so much to me!

Once I had met Calum and accepted my dnf I switched to support mode. Katrina and I met at Balloch and we spend the rest of the weekend supporting our friends in the race. But that’s for another post.

– [ ]

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments