West Lancashire Triathlon

Harriers don’t just run!…West Lancashire Triathlon by Darren Horrocks.

What can make a day that starts at 5am on a Sunday less terrible? Picking up a PB by 13 and a half minutes…

The morning started with an alarm that went off at 5am, which I ignored, and a second alarm that went off at 5:30am, which I could not ignore. Because of the “late” getting up, I forwent the bacon I prepared the night before.

By the time I had driven to Edge Hill Uni, the sun had come up and the car park was already getting busy, so I quickly unloaded my bike and walked it into transition while double checking my bag for the 9th time to make sure I had my running shoes, my cycling shoes, my goggles and my race number, they were all there. After dropping off my bike, I made my way round to the pool area and was suspiciously not nervous, when I was expecting to be terrified. It turns out, having a race plan settles race day nerves before they even start.

I’m a bad swimmer, and when I say bad you think “I’m a bad swimmer”, no, you are not, you can swim, you learned to swim in school and have done it on and off ever since. I always found an excuse to not swim at school, I never attempted to try then or at any time in the 31 years up to last year. I am also terrible at pacing, I can only go quickly, and burn out quickly because of it, so there was that to deal with too.

My Plan
For the swim, set off at the top of each minute. I can swim a 30 – 32 second length, but can do no more than 1 or 2 at once, so I decided to take the unneeded rest at the beginning to serve me when the rest gets/feels shorter later on.
For the bike, the whole plan for the bike was “the inclines are slight, the declines are slight, the rest is flat, so…. smash the bike as hard as you can, no holding back”.
For the run, I knew from last time, my legs would feel like I was a kangaroo for the first 1km or so, and I also knew that the last 1km is more or less downhill, then on the running track, so I decided to start quickly to stretch my legs from the bike, roll it back for the next 3km, then give the last 1km everything I had.

The Swim
For the most part, the plan worked. The event started late, so I ended up getting rushed into the water, started my watch and was told to go, first four lengths felt great, 30 seconds each, 30 second rest, which felt far too long, but, I had my plan, that extra rest was to compensate for later, the next 4 lengths started to slow down, as two more people got into the lane with me and I had to negotiate them as well as the swim. Once I got half way, I could feel the fatigue setting in, but knew I was half way done. The next 6 lengths, I don’t really remember, other than they were getting slower, and then suddenly, I spot the kickboard at the end of the 14th, the lane marshal telling me it was my last 2 lengths. That gave me boost I needed, all I could think was “there and back, that is it” and went all out for 2 lengths, weaving in and out of 3 other swimmers while doing so. Suddenly, I was out of the pool and running into T1.

As I ran into T1, I knew I was home free. Threw myself down at the floor in front of my bike, yanked my compression socks on, and pulled my cycling shoes on, helmet on, number on, grabbed my bike and ran. There was no hanging around, I wasn’t losing my target time in transition this year. It was then I noticed that other than me, there wasn’t a single bike left in the first 20 numbers on the bike rack, which means everyone around me had a faster swim, but coming up, was where I knew I would pull it back. Ran out with the bike and got myself across the bike mount line, jumped on the bike, clipped in and shot off.

The Bike
Almost as soon as I set off, I had picked out who I was overtaking first, I could see 5 people ahead of me who I had seen leaving T1 as I was coming in, set my sights on all of them and they were the first to go, 4 of the 5 of them were before the first corner. After that, I had clear road in front of me, the next racer was way off in the distance in front of me, so I decided to get down, and power down the first “hill” to start the first proper lap. As I was going round, the legs were feeling good, even when I was on my way back up the “hills”, towards the end of the first lap, I glanced down at my watch for the first time, was averaging 3kph faster than I usually do, decided I was going to keep it, or beat it. Second and third lap were much the same, apart from a few other racers had joined the course behind me, so I had no idea if I was overtaking for position, or if I was overtaking racers I was not in a race with. Suddenly, the end of lap 3 turns up, and I make my way back to transition for T2 having felt like I had done quite well on the bike and started planning the run. I got myself to the dismount line, unclipped, jumped off and set off into T2.

As I jumped off the bike, I thought to myself “no, not going to waste time, run, fast”, and I tried, forgetting I had just pushed the bike as hard as I could, my legs didn’t work. Walked for a few seconds, and then my legs came back, letting me run my bike back to my rack. There was something I should have noticed, but didn’t, which I will get to later. Once more, I threw myself to the ground, I threw off my bike shoes, put my running shoes on, and threw my helmet to the ground, and I was on my way out of T2.

The Run
My legs were like bricks, every step was agony, I was screaming at myself inside, I had overcooked it on the bike, but, I had a plan, I decided to try and stick to it, just gave what I had in me, no holding back. After I hit the 1km sign, I started rolling it back, I don’t know what I rolled it back to, but it was no more comfortable. Made my way around the university campus until I got to the running trail at the back of the university grounds, then suddenly a marshal said to me “well done, you are my first customer of the day”… I couldn’t believe it, I was in 1st position (yes, I started 12th, and its time based not past-the-post based). Gave me a bit of a boost, which let me find something that I’m still sure now, was not there.

Dragged myself kicking and screaming (on the inside) to the 4km sign, where I could see the finish line to my right, I could see the trail track in front of me, and the running track after that. Picked up the pace, and kept going with everything, then got overtook, was no longer first on the road, and even though knew I was never in contention for a win, my time was never going to win, and being first on the road means absolutely nothing, it felt like I had been kicked in the nuts. However, I hit the running track and knew I had 400m left, so gave it everything I had, and everything I didn’t have, I could not breath, I couldn’t see, I was just moving as hard as I could.
The finish was glorious, threw myself through the finish line and quickly stopped my watch, which looked suspiciously like I had beaten my 1hr 30 target, but I couldn’t tell.

An agonising number of hours later, with me thinking I had hit 1hr 29, I get an email confirming I hit 1hr 28. Not only did I beat my target by 2 minutes, I beat my previous time on the same course by over 13 minutes.
Official Time: 1:28:15

Overall, it was an enjoyable morning, and given that I’m not in a position to race for a win, I look to learn something from each race and this race taught me the lesson that a race plan works.



UGB 2017 200 miles

Editor’s notes…anyone reading this please bear in mind it is not mandatory to run 200 mile races to be a member of Wigan Harriers, please don’t let this put you off joining us! 😀

This years Ultra Great Britain took place on Saturday 19th August starting at 6am on Southport Promenade and after spending what seemed like a lifetime beforehand packing, re-packing, checking and re-checking my kit and dropbags, I was ready to line up with 75 other runners and set off on my way to Hull.

We had registered the previous evening to collect our race numbers and as is tradition with GB Ultras events, I was given my original UGB number 15 and this years new t-shirt before having our pre-race photos taken by Mick Hall’s team (all photos are pre-paid and free at this companies events).

This year’s registration was held in the Southport Theatre and Convention Centre and included guest presentations by Lim Nghee Huat (64 year old ultramarathon runner from Singapore who’s raised over $350,000 in the last 2 years), Brendan Rendall (ultra runner who ran the full length of Malawi to raise funds to build a school there), Neil Rutherford (UGB 2016 winner and experienced ultrarunner) and Tony Brammer (UK organiser of the 4deserts ultramarathon series which take place in the Sahara Desert, Atacama Desert, Gobi Desert and Antarctica).

Heading home after registration and having a late bite to eat, it was time to get as much sleep as possible before the 03:30 alarm to set off back to Southport again. As expected, sleep wasn’t great with everything running through my head ranging from how the race would progress, had I packed enough changes of clothes, would the weather be as bad as last year, how bad would my body be destroyed this time and would my hallucinations be as good as last year!

Arriving at Southport at 5am, I stood with Laura who’d kindly got up at 3:30 to bring me to the startline on a very windy Southport promenade. As I met some of my running friends from previous races and we talked about what was about to happen, I felt some arms around me. It was Mark Morgan-Hillam in his coat and bobble hat – he’d driven all the way from home to start to say hello and see everyone set off from the start. We were then issued with our race trackers which would be broadcasting our position live throughout the duration of the race. That was done quite efficiently and after the race briefing and official start line photos, the countdown began.

As the race horn sounded, the pack headed south down towards Liverpool directly into a strong headwind. While it was a dry start, this really affected the running and it was clear we were going to be looking at the prospect of playing ‘beat the hurricane’ during the race as the remnants of Hurricane Gert were due to hit the UK over the remainder of the weekend.

Checkpoint 1 was reached at 3.5 miles to quickly check things and top up on water and after a brief adjustment of my rucksack I was off again, now accompanied by other runners. Rachel Grant who I’d previously met at Hardcastle 24 in 2016 asked if she could stay with me and follow my plan for as long as possible. Happy to help out and support we headed onto the trail towards Liverpool meant the wind was now no longer directly in our faces and was a nice side/tailwind and whilst it was very cloudy, the rain had stayed in the distance.

To motivate us a little more, I put my mp3 player on and we were soon singing Christmas songs mixed with TV theme tunes, a bit of Ed Sheeran and even a remix of Whigfield and Kylie – anything that would be a distraction from what we were actually doing.
The rain (and very heavy it was too) finally hit around mile 17 but we were under the shelter of trees along ‘The Ralla’ near Aintree at this point so, with a tactical slowdown to a jog, we remained under the trees until it passed and thankfully missed it. By this point, we had passed checkpoint 2 manned by Tracey Dutton and Kerry Walmsley and taken on a couple of jaffa cakes, banana and fluid before cracking on again. A quick check of my race plan showed that everything was on track so far.

Having been dropped off in Southport by Laura earlier that morning, she had then gone home to get some sleep before heading out again to pick her friend up from Liverpool Airport and about 09:20, I got a message saying she was trying to follow my ‘blob’ on the tracker and come and find me. Luckily at this point, I’d reached Sainsbury’s in Broadgreen so a quick diversion inside for a toilet break meant that when we came out, Laura had finally found us. It was nice to see a friendly couple of faces for real as well as the mass support online via facebook and messages I’d had during the morning already.

With lessons learned from last years race, I checked my feet at this point and decided they needed to be cooled down. Sitting on the floor in a supermarket carpark in deepest Liverpool with two bags of talc didn’t look suspicious at all but as I dipped my feet into each bag, the cooling sensation I felt was just what was needed after 21 miles.

Having said our goodbyes, we carried on down towards the next checkpoint at Halewood and spending a short amount of time there, ran on to Checkpoint 4 at Hale Village Hall. Here, the checkpoint was filled with a huge range of treats supplied by Jemma Coleman who’d even labelled up special bags for individual runners. Eamonn Brady made me a coffee and I talced up again while eating some Kola Kubes. Ahead of schedule, we left the checkpoint and trekked on down to the next checkpoint at Spike Island in Widnes, just after the Runcorn Widnes bridge. This part of the course remained almost pancake flat with the exception of a set of steps which led to alongside some sort of chemical factory and as we slowed to a jog up the steep steps, it gave us chance to savour some wild blackberries growing alongside – such a nice taste to hit the mouth after 30 or so miles!

With us just about to leave Spike Island, fellow club runners June White and Lisa Heyes appeared with some home made flapjacks and a flask of coffee. A quick drink and wth a couple of pieces of flapjack stowed safely in my rucksack and we were off down the St Helens canal which runs alongside Fiddlers Ferry. Anyone who’s ever run this section knows how monotonous this can be with a heavily clogged-up canal of weeds on one side and a never ending flaky gas pipe on the other – hardly something to stimulate the mind!
Lisa and June turned back after 5 miles and from this point on, progressing through the next 3 checkpoints was relatively uneventful – regular pauses to check feet and apply talc, take on little bites of food at checkpoints and spending no more than 10 minutes at each one before setting off again.

As we approached Checkpoint 8, Rachel was starting to feel the effects of foot pain and blisters but with the encouragement of the prospect of hot pasta ahead (the first hot meal since the night before), we pushed on along the banks of the River Mersey and reached Didsbury around 9:30 pm.

Ian Stewart and Kevin Rex were waiting for us here and as I changed my footwear to trail shoes, talced my feet, changed t-shirt and wolfed down some food and TrueStart coffee, Rachel realised that her feet had taken a battering and started to apply tape and compeed. Surprisingly my feet at this point were in amazing condition to last year with only one small blister which I’d dealt with earlier in the day.

Accompanied by Kevin and Ian, we set off in darkness with the prospect of 18 miles of trail and hill climbing to reach the next checkpoint at mile 81 in Broadbottom. My plan was to arrive there at around 0330 on Sunday morning but as we climbed steadily through Stockport and Reddish Vale, it was clear that a combination of fatigue, pain, Rachel’s injuries and the battle to convince our heads we needed to stay awake instead of sleep meant the game plan got scrapped. Rachel was struggling and I changed my aim to get her to her furthest ever distance run and convince her that this point was not the point to be DNF’ing. I knew it would mean that my finishing position and time wasn’t going to be what I had aspired to but knowing that I felt in good condition still, had no injuries and knew what was coming ahead, decided that helping getting someone else to the finish and achieve.

Super-support crew Laura turned up at Stockport just by the pyramid having earlier been to a concert with her friend and surprised us by parking up by a billboard next to a disused pub (the same pub where last year in torrential rain, Kev had almost got beaten up by just asking to use the toilet – a scouser in Manchester isn’t a great combination at 1am in the morning!). A brief top-up of water and a short motivational chat and we were off again.

By the final couple of miles approaching the checkpoint, it was a battle to keep spirits up and Rachel was determined to pull out at mile 81. She’d gone further than she’d ever done before but the pain she was in was getting worse. Having worked out a new plan in my head, I convinced her to tape and treat her feet up at the checkpoint, get some food, try and sleep for an hour or so and then decide how she felt.

Ian and Kevin were the same absolute stars as last year and thankfully there were no 3am meltdowns from me this year through not being able to see the road in front of me in heavy rain but these were instead replaced by literally falling asleep running on regular occasions. On one occasion, I woke up on the other side of a two-lane road near a barbed wire fence. Kev was oblivious to this as his head was buried deep in his phone (either updating facebook or tracking other runners blobs!)

After Ian and Kevin had headed home, a couple of pieces of toast were downed along with a sweet tea and sleep was attempted. It’s not the greatest quality sleep either lying on two plastic school chairs or on a gym mat but it was a power nap regardless. At around 7 am, Rachel was feeling a little more positive and we decided to head out and set ourselves a short target of 22 miles and aim to reach Penistone (mile 103) by a target of 4pm before having a proper rest.

Sunday was a hot day compared to the previous day and even by early morning, the heat and humidity had sapped our recently re-stocked energy levels. As we reached the top of the Pennines at Woodhead Pass, we took advantage of the fully closed road to once again check our feet, apply talc and let them cool down. What wasn’t expected was the ‘falling asleep on a rock’ part of this routine – I had just closed my eyes while letting my feet cool down and woke as another couple of runners came and joined us.

Two had now become 4, and we took on some water before heading down through Dunford Bridge and along the tarmac trail into Penistone. At this point, all my energy had gone and it was a case of staying awake between each 1km positioned bench before stopping, regrouping and moving on again. About 3 miles away from the checkpoint, Rachel needed an impromptu toilet stop and as she went to find a bush, I sat on a piece of concrete on a bridge. This became the most comfiest piece of concrete so far and I once again fell asleep – sat upright!

Rachel returned after an unsuccessful expedition and woke me. We trudged along now with the sun beating down and our bodies feeling like that point when you’re driving in your car playing petrol roulette – with your petrol light having been on forever, wondering at which point you’re going to stall. Looking ahead there were some small fat, long-necked birds which in my dubious mental state looked very much like Velociraptors! As we got closer and they moved out the way it was clear that we hadn’t been transported into Yorkshire’s version of Jurassic Park but these were in fact grouse or partridges (or something similar).

Shortly after our prehistoric vision, June White appeared with her dog Barney and stayed with us on our final stretch to the checkpoint. Supported (literally) arm in arm, we got closer until the point when I thought I was having yet another hallucination. Thankfully, it really was Darren Finnegan coming towards me and not some sort of crazy daytime nightmare! Seeing Darren overloaded the emotions and after pulling myself together I told him that I had enough. I’d got Rachel to 103 miles, I’d done the race last year and had nothing to prove and had literally nothing left. Darren reasoned with me and the fact that the strong headwind would have sapped my resources early on in the race and I wasn’t to let the chimp beat me down! After having to withdraw from the race at mile 26 due to injuries sustained at Lakeland 50 a couple of weeks earlier, it was such a nice gesture for Darren to drive out and come and support the other runners and he was a welcome face to many of us.

Darren changed my mindset and with only a mile to go, I had turned my head around and agreed with his suggestion to get some proper rest and set off to cover miles 103-143 early next morning. Before I could get that opportunity, I saw a runner coming towards me in the distance at full pelt. Thinking ‘this person must be out for a nice Sunday run’ I started to move to the side but then realised as my eyes focussed once again that it was Laura who’d also driven out to Penistone to surprise me. What a surprise and a huge motivation that was as I got the biggest hug and almost collapsed on the floor. She helped me up the steps (yes steps at mile 103 – what cruel Race Director makes you climb steps to a checkpoint!) into the village hall and I sat down. Darren tended to my feet (brave man) as Jemma brought me coffee and a couple of slices of pizza. A further surprise then followed – not only had Laura come out to surprise us, but she had her car loaded up and out came a huge cool box containing homemade ham & cheese sandwiches, pork pies, red velvet cake, galaxy caramel cake, fresh pineapple, minstrels, dinky deckers and water. This was a sight for some very sore, tired and foggy eyes!

After having sorted out my feet and refuelled, my mind was coming to its senses and I moved into a side-room to climb into my sleeping bag. It was now about 6pm and I said goodbye to Laura and Darren and we had decided our plan of action was to wake at 0300 and set off again at 0400. Sadly, my timing for resting meant that I just missed Paul Carter and Michelle Jones who’d also driven out to meet us at Penistone checkpoint.

Sleep wasn’t great. Too much noise from the main room combined with pain all over my body and sleeping once again on a gym mat meant I wasn’t as fully refreshed when Jemma came in and turned on the light. Coffee, cheese and tomato as a breakfast soon changed that and after a quick wash and brush of the teeth, change of clothes and armed with a pair of walking poles, I was ready for the off.

Rachel and I set off having said goodbyes to the amazing checkpoint team with our first checkpoint 26.5 miles away, one of the longest stints without a break on the whole route. We covered the first 4 miles pretty quickly but as dawn was breaking, so was Rachel’s achilles (or so she thought) and the intense pain meant frequent stops were necessary. Doncaster loomed and it was looking like 129 miles was her limit but we pressed on. Spurred on by facetime conversations with Laura and random discussions about snails kept the distractions away from the current problems. We were joined along this section by Paul Edwards who had set off after us that morning and despite getting lost a couple of times, caught us and joined us through the woodlands alongside the River Don. As we sat on a bench to treat the feet and let them cool down once again, we saw an otter in the river (funny how the littlest things stick in your head).

At the checkpoint in Bentley, although I was feeling sore, I still had only the one blister thankfully which hadn’t got any worse and was being held at bay by the Compeed. Others who were lay on the floor as we arrived weren’t in as good a state and the floor resembled an army field hospital with bodies strewn everywhere with various foot / leg injuries. As one runner was having his blisters drained by one of the checkpoint volunteers, I got access to my roller and started vigorously rolling out my aching quads – this seemed to work after about 30 mins and injected a new lease of life into them.

Feeling like Tigger but not smelling as fresh, it was time to head out. Jemma the checkpoint heroine had arrived here once again laden with Subway for me, Rachel and Paul who had joined us. With that to fuel us, it was onwards to mile 143 and the prospect of finally seeing Mark and Leanne Morgan-Hillam at Sykehouse (or Psycho House as it had been affectionately named last year). As we moved, our tracker had obviously notified Mark as he called me to let me know Keith West had just arrived there and they were bringing him down in the car so he could run the best part of the 13 or so miles.

About 3 miles in, we were nearly run off the road by Mark as we ran over a railway bridge but it was such a nice sight to see their happy faces and the fresh-legged Keith step out of the back seat. After a quick selfie, we were off and we made our way over railways and through the quaint villages to Sykehouse. Along this point disaster struck – my garmin watch battery had died and had not been recording my progress. Armed with numerous powerbanks for the duration of the course, I quickly plugged one into my watch and worked out that I’d only lost about 0.5 miles of the course. Not wanting to miss out any of the route on Strava and for it not to count, I did what any sane person would do 139 miles into an event – I ran back to the point of data loss and ran back again to catch up our newly increased merry (?) crew.

As darkness started to fall, it was time to endure one of the worst parts of the route – 4 miles of canal leading to Sykehouse. No cottages, no roads, no life, just canal. Oh and a few cows looking weirdly at us form the other side of the water – and a heron flying along (or maybe it was a pterodactyl?) What makes this canal so bad are the sprayed on number markers on the ground every 5 metres. They go on forever and ever, and ever.

Mood was low, the light was lower and it was now starting to drizzle. Every step was painful and as it approached 9:30pm, the checkpoint seemed like forever away. Thankfully it wasn’t and as we once again were greeted by the cowbell ringing Jemma, we stepped through the doors of Sykehouse Village Hall to be greeted with open arms and huge smiles from Mark and Leanne.

Hot food was served this time in the form of ravioli on toast with cheese and a cup of tea. Socks off once again and a check of the feet revealed no new blisters or injuries, just bruised feet from what was now 143 miles and 63 hours of being on them. Rachel however was a different story and her blisters had swelled, were bleeding and her feet were shot – her race was unfortunately over. She was distraught but it was the right decision as her injuries were too bad. Paul wasn’t in too great a shape either and with taped up toes and a strapped up knee, his progress was limited too. Nevertheless, he wanted to continue and was determined to finish and asked if I would stay with him as he had no depth perception due to reduced vision in one eye. I of course agreed and we made a plan to finish the race whatever it took – as Paul said ‘three eyes were better than one’ and on that note, we agreed to grab some sleep and set off at 3am.

Blearly eyed, I was woken by Mark at 3am and got changed again before making my way into the main part of the village hall. Paul was all ready to go and after loading up with water, saying goodbye to Rachel, I finally saw Julie Valentine for the first time since the start. She was continuing but setting off shortly after us so after a bit of a chat and a Harriers photo, I left with Paul to continue to the next checkpoint which was 27 miles away in Broadfleet.

It must have been raining very heavy overnight while we slept as there were huge puddles on the roads and as we dodged them and progressed through Snaith, I realised that we must have dodged the predicted back end of the hurricane. Another humid dawn turned into yet another hot day and after a brief stop at McDonalds after 13 miles in Goole for a coffee and another rollering session, we set off towards the River Humber. Conditions had been dry underfoot up to that point and at mile 165 I was STILL wearing the same socks that I had been wearing since the start – they had performed amazingly.

The long wet grass on the riverbanks soon changed that and my trainers were soaked through which meant that my socks and feet got wet too, bringing on the first of what would be 4 awkward blisters on my toes. A dip into my bag of talc and a change of socks minimised the damage and we were soon off the grass and back onto the road again, heading into the next checkpoint at mile 170. One of the Race Directors along with Jemma Coleman had run out a couple of miles to meet me and Paul and join us for the final stretch so we ran in with them in the now beating heat.

With just 30 miles remaining, our heads were in a good place now knowing the end was in sight even if our bodies weren’t feeling as strong. Paul’s feet were painful and he went to sleep on the floor with his legs raised at 90 degrees to reduce the blood flow to his feet. In the meantime, Jemma treated my feet with tape to try and prevent my toes from ripping open.

It was now about 4pm and our plan to reach Hornsea in time for last orders was looking in doubt! Just as we were leaving, Keith West appeared once again – he was on his way home from Hull and had checked the tracker to see where we were and so called in to see how we were. After a brief hello / goodbye we headed back along the riverbank to Brough and were on the lookout for the final checkpoint – the Humber Bridge.

The infamous Adam Gallimore was host to this checkpoint and greeted us in his unique style as we entered the checkpoint at about 6:30pm. One of my friends from East Hull Harriers had rung me earlier to wish me well and came out to meet us at the checkpoint. She was armed not only with Cadburys chocolate fingers, energy drinks and haribos but had been to McDonalds and turned up with a ¼ pounder meal and coffee for me and Paul – such a nice and well timed gesture. (It seems evening picnics under the Humber Bridge have become a regular thing after last years Dominos with Mark & Leanne!)

Fully fuelled up and with feet retaped, we set off towards Hull. Fear had descended on us as we’d be running (now very slowly and in a lot of pain) through the dockside area dressed inconspicuously with headtorch, watch, phone and backpack. Not a high-risk target at all! Fortunately, we made it through the delights of Spyvee Street and picked up the Trans Pennine Trail once again and headed in the pitch darkness to Hornsea.

Only 16 miles remained now and with only fields either side and trees surrounding the trail, this had the effect of making the trail look like we were constantly in a tunnel and that the ground was on a constant incline – even though it was flat. Our heads, body and hearts were mashed now but we were determined to finish.

5 miles remained and we saw a headlight coming towards us – we initially thought we were hallucinating but as the headlight got closer, I realised it was once again Laura who had driven the 130 miles to the finish line and then had run out to meet us to help get us to the end. She had come laden with sandwiches, water and protein bars and after an impromptu picnic at the side of the road (and both me and Paul falling asleep on the road for about 3 minutes), we were now re-focussed on getting to the end.

With the end in sight, I shook Paul’s hand and let him take the finish line first, his full-size Welsh flag held high above his shoulders as I held back a couple of hundred metres while he had his photos taken and received his medal.

It was then my turn to finish and I crossed the line at 03:38 on Wednesday morning – almost 94 hours after starting the race. Time and finishing position wasn’t important to me this time after last years achievement of finishing 4th, I’d achieved my aim of helping Paul realise his achievement of completing the race, battered, bruised and unable to do anything more than hobble but at least we did it.

Not the race in terms of time or position that I wanted but sometimes, it’s about sacrificing your own personal goals and supporting others. To me, I achieved more satisfaction this year in helping Rachel achieve her first ever 100 mile and 200km distance and Paul complete the race which he said he wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.

Recovery has been slower than last year, probably due to the increased bruising and pounding on the body but on reflection I loved the race. The organisation and support from the GB Ultras Race Directors is second to none and you’re made to feel that your race is personal and not just a race number or chip. The checkpoint volunteers were fantastic and were outstanding in the help the provided to every runner whether they were the first through or the final finisher.

Ian has been raising money for UK Sepsis Trust.

Next year the UGB race moves to Scotland and as well as the distance extending to 214 miles, the ascent increases from 6600ft to over 21000ft with only 8 checkpoints along the distance.

Will I be there? Of course I will!

Final Editor note: Big congratulations to Ian for completing this epic event again and to first timer Julie Valentine. You should both be very proud.

My Leigh 10k Experience

My Leigh 10k Experience by Diane Hill

Sunday 13th August, 6:30 am Alarm Call can only mean one thing – Race Day. For me it wasn’t just any Race Day, it was my first as a Wigan Harrier, my first 10k since Wigan 10k 2014; it was a big day for me.

I don’t normally take on food before running, but I wanted to give myself the best opportunity to run my best time. So, wholemeal bread toasted with Peanut Butter (organic Meridian) with a Banana would be a good choice.

7:30am soon came around and it was time to hit the road, dressed ready to go – Harriers Vest proudly worn, my husband took control of the driving and off we set. Arriving in Leigh at just after 8am, the venue was in full swing setting up and the registration tent was open. I nervously went over to collect my race pack, number 215 took pride of place on my vest, timing chip placed around my ankle, off I set in search of fellow Harriers and a friendly face to try and calm my nerves.

First faces spotted – Sam, Tony, Lynne & Stephen, all offering wise words on how best to manage the race. I had it set in my head that I needed to achieve less than 1 Hour. Telling myself that 59:59 would make me happy. I’ve done 3 10k’s, times getting worse, first 1 Hour 4, second 1 Hour 8 and final one 1 Hour 12, so to set myself under 1 Hour was a big ask.

9:10 am – Lynne suggested we start making our way over to the start and do a brief warm up. Off we went, Tony encouraging us to do a brief run to warm up the legs – I’m glad we did, sound advice. In the back ground could hear Luke Marsden (ex Big Brother contestant) doing his bit on Stage for Wish FM to rally the troops up to the start. I had decided to set myself amongst the 55 Min marker to give me a chance (sound advice from Sam).

9:30 am – Count Down begins and boom off we go. Three laps of Leigh, 10k, 6.2 Miles and we’re off. The first lap was a short lap, no hills – traffic management was obviously going to be an issue as some motorist already complaining to the marshals with 541 runners coming at them. It also became apparent that the sun beaming down was getting warmer. The support around the course was great, the leighers giving their encouragement. Lap 1 completed, it was then onto the longer 2nd lap. At this stage the 5k marker couldn’t come soon enough – water was definitely needed. The sun was getting warmer and my mouth was really beginning to dry out. Water station in sight, bottle was grabbed and water taken on. Just further up, I could hear familiar voices, Jayne and Dave cheering on, this spurred me on – just what I needed to give me the boost to get me moving again, I asked Jayne if the 55 min marker was still behind me in case I missed him passing me, he was which gave me hope that under an hour was still possible. Shortly after, the crowd at the start came into sight for the 2nd time and it was on to the final lap. Within seconds of passing, I heard Luke’s voice announcing the first runner was about to cross the finish line….. My stomach dropped, first runner back and I’m just starting the 3rd lap and my hope disappeared as the 55 minute marker passes me. At this stage I felt I had gone out to quick in the first few miles. My in-experience was starting to show. Positive thoughts needed to get me through the last few miles. I just thought, get to the water station, take on some water and nail the last part of the race. Water station in sight, unfortunately no water, not what I wanted to see. Anyway – just a little further up, the support from Jayne and Dave gave me the much needed boost yet again and I had the knowledge knowing the finish line was in sight. A quick glimpse of my watch gave me hope that my sub 60 minute 10k was still in reach, I then remembered something Jayne said at one of the Tuesday night Haigh sessions – it’s not your body that says you can’t do this, it’s your head. So I gave myself a good talking too and knuckled down. Eventually the finish line came into the view, the crowd clapping and cheering. Adrenalin kicked in and my stride instantly picked up – I heard a member of the crowd shout go on girl, good strong finish – this spurred me on and boom – finish line, crossed, watch stopped!

First Harrier I saw was Sam and he asked how I did, I looked at the time when I crossed the finish line and hoped for 57-58 minutes. All the other Harriers where very supportive and asked how I felt it had gone. I was feeling great, extremely warm, a litre of much needed water was consumed. Then, a proud moment – a group picture.

I couldn’t wait to get home and connected my watch to see what Strava had recorded. I was completely floored with the 56:10 it flashed before my eyes. I thought can’t be right, I doubted myself. Official Chip time appeared – 56:11.

All the months of training, encouragement from Jayne and all the other Harriers have paid off. Now to improve – Wigan 10k next and looking to go for 55 Minutes (or under).

Continue reading

Lakeland 50…. a few big hills.

With just a month’s recovery from Mont Blanc, we headed to Coniston for the 10th Anniversary of the Lakeland 50 / 100. It was the 3rd time I’d been here but the 1st time as a competitor, so this time I was more nervous than ever. We had brought my mum (Ann) and her husband (Nigel) along as our support crew and also to provide us with a lift from Coniston to the start at Dalemain.

We arrived in Coniston mid afternoon on the Friday and checked into the Black Bull pub. We headed straight for registration which involved kit check, tagging and a body weight check. I was glad that others looked as apprehensive as me and there was lots of moaning and grumbling about the weather. Warren kept telling me not to listen as the weather was perfect, if the rain held off and it stayed overcast it was far better than racing in the blazing sun. He’s not wrong, the sun was so hot at Mont Blanc by mid day and I certainly didn’t fancy those conditions for almost a double marathon distance. We kept up with tradition having a meal on the Friday night at the Steam Bistro which is a must for anyone staying in Coniston, but you do have to book and remember to take your own ale. Then it was back to the Black Bull for a night cap, a double Bushmills Whiskey each (again a tradition) before getting an early night.

Race morning brought an 8:30am to 9am briefing and Marc was on top form as usual expelling any nerves that all us competitors may have had. It was then a quick breakfast before Ann and Nigel transported us to the start at the Dalemain Estate, which is the 50 mile point of the Lakeland 100. With about 15 minutes to go everyone begins to move into the start pen, dibbing in as they enter. We did our usual manoeuvre to the front and with a brief countdown we were off. As it’s actually just 46 miles from the start to the finish line the 50 mile race has to start with a 4 mile loop of the Estate, which at this point was in the rain. We had put our waterproof jackets on just before the start and before we had finished the loop, the jackets off and back in our packs. From that point on we never needed to get them out again as the weather stayed overcast which made perfect running conditions throughout.

There was some pretty quick runnable miles at the start, with a few inclines but nothing major before the first checkpoint at Howtown Bobbin Mill. Just as we approached the first checkpoint Warren felt the need to point out our first climb. I don’t think my face looked too impressed which resulted in a quick reassuring response. I was not ready to kill him just yet!

The climb up Fusedale was relentless and over a mile in long. Once at the top Warren exclaimed “you did it’” he also informed me that none of the climbs to come would be that bad. Yes climbs to come, because Warren has always made sure I’m prepared for a race and that I never underestimate what I’m about to take on. He had the experience and the knowledge and so I was well aware that there is a climb out of everyone of the 6 checkpoints of the Lakeland 50. At the top of Fusedale is High Cop which was a very boggy run along the top. Given the fact that it had been raining for near enough the last 48 hours, most of the Lakeland 50 course was wet and boggy under foot.

From High Cop the course descends through some high bracken down to Haweswater Reservoir and even on an overcast day you can feel the temperature rising. The high bracken made the descent difficult as we couldn’t see the ground in front of us and this is were I took my first tumble. 16 miles in and I fall head first and manage to roll over off the track in a somersault manner and disappear into the bracken. Warren had to come and rescue me and pull me back onto my feet. To be fair for any of you that have read my previous off road race blogs, 16 miles before I fall is a bloody good achievement, as I can fall in a 5 mile fell race. I had a few more stumbles along the way to Mardalehead but nothing that caused me to hit the deck again. However just before checkpoint 2 it was Warren’s turn, going up to his waist in a bog that I had somehow managed to avoid. He ended up with mud all over his head and a cut to is finger, that I never heard the last of for next 30 miles, so you can guess how many times it was brought up.

Out of checkpoint 2 at Mardalehead is a further climb up Gatescarth Pass and then a decent at which point we were 22 miles in. Here I had my first and thankfully for Warren my last head wobble and it was a big one. I know that I was whinging a lot at this point and I thought that I was going a lot slower than I actually was. I felt that I was letting Warren down, I knew he had said before that we could do this race in 12 and 1/2 hours but I wasn’t feeling that this was possible. I was not going to give up but just didn’t think the goal was achievable. Warren gave me a BIG HUG and told me that we were smashing it and doing brilliantly and just needed to keep going, so I took a few seconds, composed myself and we had another jog. Then there was another climb just before the Kentemere checkpoint which Warren had apparently forgotten about. I can assure everyone it’s not something I will ever forget about.

Checkpoint 3 at Kentmere was time for the port-a-loo and time to take off and empty my right shoe of a stone that had been irritating me for miles. Drinks bottles filled again and yet more cheese sandwiches as we were now on our way to Ambleside. On the way we spoke to another competitor and he said “this is a nasty little climb,” ahh yes check point equals climb and I think I muttered something under my breathe along the lines of “when is there not a bloody climb.” Eventually we got to checkpoint 4 at Ambleside. From here I knew the way, having recced this part of the course for the last 3 years and yes I’m a lunatic, I’ve recced the course when I wasn’t even doing the event. No, but seriously though, I love the route from Ambleside to Coniston and I think anyone who wants to do a long trail run should give it a go. It’s not easy but the scenery along the way is marvellous. Once I had got to Ambleside I said to Warren, “now I know I can finish this race.”

We headed out of Ambleside upwards, obviously and then back down to Skelwith Bridge, along to Elterwater and onto Chapel Stile checkpoint. Once at checkpoint 5 it was time for yes you may have guessed it already, more cheese sandwiches and cola. From Chapel Stile the route is runnable along a track and across 3 fields before a steep nasty little climb up to the top of Side Pike Pass. Then it’s a lovely run across the road and down past Blea Tarn. Here it becomes more technical, as we navigated our way past Blea Moor by keeping the high ground and bypassing the bogs. At this point I found myself leading a group of about 6 runners who weren’t all that sure but I was determined to get across to the unmanned Wrynose dibing point before it went dark.

The decent on the road down Wrynose Pass is quite steep and thigh shattering after the previous 45 miles. Then at the bottom the route goes right and back off road for more climbing during which the head torches needed to come out. As we hit near the top of the climb I was unnerved to look up and see bulls at each side of the path, so much so I almost stopped dead in my tracks but carried on when Warren went past me. The route then goes down to a farm and along the road to the final checkpoint at Tilberthwaite. Yes you’ve guessed it to my sheer delight and thrill, more cheese sandwiches and cola.

On leaving Tilberthwaite there is the smallest but most definitely the steepest climb of the day, were at points you are literally scrambling. however it then becomes runnable along the top until we reached The Tree – the one that comes out of the rocks and at which, Warren and I stop at every time we do a reccy. We have a number of photos at this tree. No time for photos this time, just time to push on up the last steady incline before the final descent into Coniston.

We rounded the corner to see the Black Bull and to my amazement the pub was still open and people were still gathered outside. Even better, Ann and Nigel were hanging out of their window cheering us on over the last few hundred meters. When we had planned this race I had told them that we would be back in the early hours of the morning and that they could go to bed and we would see them at breakfast. I was so elated to know that they had seen me finish. At this point Warren said we needed to put it in as we could run sub 11:45 and spared on by the support of Ann, Nigel and everyone else still out in Coniston I pushed for the finish.

We dibbed in at the finish line at John Ruskin School in 11:43:36 and were instructed that we could get something to eat and drink. I believe my words were “please, no more cheese or cola for as long as I live,” but thankfully they were not on offer. We collected our medals and t-shirts and sat down for some chilli and rice before heading back and collapsing in bed.

This was the hardest and longest day I have ever done in a pair of running shoes. My feet were wet from start to finish and I have never eaten so many sandwiches or consumed so much sugar in one day, but I would not change a single thing. We passed so many 100 runners during this race and every time we gave them a cheer because I take my hat off to them. I now know how hard the 50 race is and the 100 is something I don’t think I could do and after seeing them nor would I want to do it. They say that the back 50 miles of the 100 race is the easiest part and I think I would be happy never experiencing the hard part. I swore never again and asked that Warren not even mention the Lakeland 50, however, this did not last long as it took just 5 days before we booked the Black Bull for next year and I cant wait!

August beckons!

Tomorrow is August so this means the last round of mid-week races is fast approaching. For those of you who have done these before you will know what we are talking about but here’s a link to a news article that will give you all the essential information as to which ones suit you!

Information on mid-week race fixtures

They are all well organised, great value and highly recommended.

Knowsley parkrun

Chris Burton tried a couple of new things, Knowsley parkrun and then wrote them a race report. Here’s a copy of it, well done Chris.

Chris had some lovely things to say about our parkrun, so I invited him to write a guest runner report of his visit to Knowsley today, This is what he had to say…..

Today I ran Knowsley parkrun for the first time. I wasn’t sure want to expect.

I had a slight knowledge of what to expect because I did part of the parkrun course when I ran the cross country route on day 5 off the tour of Merseyside. So many memories just came flooding back when I arrived at the start line, as it was less than 3 weeks since I was here completing day 5 of the Tour.

When I was listening to the brief which was given out by the Run Director Richie, he was talking about a defibrillator saying that they still need £200 to reach their target to buy one for their parkrun. As a person who suffers from epilepsy, I think there should really be another way they could get one as I don’t think they should have to raise so much money to buy their own!.

After listening to the brief the run started. I had a good burst of energy which made me run a little bit faster. I was leading the way going into the 1st corner and I thought “oh no I don’t know this course I hope I don’t get lost” but I managed to survive the first lap only with a little scare when I nearly beat the marshal to his post so the fella behind me had to shout to tell me to turn around. Luckily I still managed to keep my position! The marshals were fantastic all the way around and they were very supportive. The photographs which the photographer took of me and the rest of the runners just topped off a brilliant parkrun.

When I got home and I didn’t receive my text message telling me what my time was I was a little worried, but it all got sorted out and my finish time of 19 minutes exactly was added to the results.

I can’t wait to come back and run Knowsley parkrun again with some more runners from my club.

Chris Burton – Wigan Harriers.


Rock n Roll Star!

If you can’t beat them, join them by Katie Green.

I started out running just over a year ago. After years of cheering on at the sidelines watching Chris get better and more competitive my loving husband signed me up for my first race while I was still pregnant. He decided that running would be good for me and that I’d be good at it for some reason. Last year I did the rock n roll 5k as my first ever race after 5 months of running and it petrified me so imagine the confusion at running it again a year later as well as the half marathon! It’s amazing the difference a year makes when you are surrounded by supportive, competitive idiots.

The rock n roll half marathon in Liverpool really is a brilliant race to run, especially if your still relatively new to the longer, scarier race distances. It’s a really well thought out route as you get a good mix of flats to get time in the bank and ‘fun’ hilly bits to remind you that you should probably do more hill sessions with the running club. I’m still yet to train properly for a half marathon as things seem to always get in the way (kids with chicken pox, car crash, chest infection) so race day morning I’m still filled with terror at the idea of running 13.1 miles and not being able to time running past the portaloos just right so I don’t wet myself or mess up my race time. Chris as usual was right up front with the other speedy harriers and I was quite happy in coral 5 with the other people aiming for the 2 hour mark. Its safe to say you know you are a runner when you feel a wave of relief when its nice and cloudy in May so you know you’re not going to finish a race looking like a crispy lobster.

The start is always the most stressful part for me because I hate the bottleneck effect of everyone trying to get out ahead of all the other people and trying to set their pace. Luckily at RnR they have enough sense to send you out in waves, yes it takes a little longer to get to the start line but it’s so much better being able to start a race and not be elbow to elbow with every other runner and start out at the pace you want to. The first few miles are really lively with people all along the route and minimal uphill routes. The bands lined up at various points really help to give you a bit of a boost too, especially towards the end when your shouting at yourself in your head for signing up to another of these things after you swore never again at the last one. I tend to get myself through longer runs by setting myself little targets. I managed to get up the hill around mile 6 without stopping, which really helped my confidence as I was surrounded by people going sod it just walk up it and after that you get a lovely few miles through the parks which are really nice flat, shady paths. I think I only ended up finding and passing other harriers after the 7 mile mark starting with Rachael giving me encouragement after I checked she was ok. By mile 10 I was arguing with myself about whether I could keep the pace up I was at but after checking my watch and realising I was in with a shot of getting a 1:50 half marathon it was a case of telling my legs to shut up and carry on.

Miles 10-12 were pretty lonely as there wasn’t much support out and I’d pretty much ran the whole thing on my own but it was a case of head down and plod on. As I got past mile 12 that’s when things got weird for me as I started to spot runners I knew that were faster than me! I got encouragement from other club runners as I was kicking up my pace for the last mile putting in a last ditch effort to get as good a time as possible. Its pretty safe to say I was amazed when i finished with a time of 1:47:45 knocking nearly 8 minutes off my previous half marathon pb from Wigan half! I still find it funny I saw more harriers at the finish line than I did for the whole race too, I finished just behind Jayne who gave me a big hug and congratulations when she spotted me as we’d both been aiming for the 1:50 mark, thou she smuggled more haribo off the table at the end than I did. It’s definitely a race I would recommend doing if you wanted to go for a half marathon and not just because they are some of the best medals 🙂

Marathon du Mont Blanc…..a very big hill!

We arrived in Chamonix on Thursday 22nd June as Warren was to take part in Friday’s Vertical Kilometre race before we both embarked on the Marathon on Sunday. I have never been to Chamonix before and this is certainly one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. Chamonix rests at the base of a valley with the Red Mountains on one side and Mont Blanc Mastif on the other.

Warren registered for the Vertical KM (with an overall distance of 3.8KM / 2.4 miles) and was given a start time of 16:15 hours. The start was a time trial, with the slowest going first based on each competitors estimated time. The first mile was runnable with a slight incline, but nonetheless took 17 minutes, the second mile was nothing short of brutal with non stop climbing and with the aid of ladders, ropes and a lot of scrambling, took a total of 33 minutes. Finishing in a time of 1 Hour and 1 minute, that was the perfect prep for a mountain marathon in less than 36 hours time, NOT!!

Following Warren’s massive achievement the day before, Saturday was a day of rest and a little sightseeing before the marathon. There is actually so much to see and do but we wanted to limit ourselves, because after all, we were there to race a mountain marathon. We visited the Mer du Glace (sea of ice) which is an ice cave, as this is something we have never seen anywhere else on our travels. There was a 20 minute train ride up the mountain, then 5 minute cable car down towards the ice and then just to keep things easy for me and Warren the day before our race, 448 steps down to the cave entrance. Taking the 448 steps back up to the cable car gave me the first real idea of how different it is to breathe at altitude. I’ve been running up mountains in the Lake District but nothing compares to the dizzy heights of the Alps. Having visited the cave in the morning we spent the rest of Saturday relaxing back at the Chalet as I prepared my Harrier nails. The plan was to have an early night but I have to say I have never had such a restless sleep before a race. Warren was fast asleep from early on, I was too hot, then I was too thirsty, then I had an ache in my leg, all of which was in my head making me more frustrated and less able to sleep.

Our Chalet in Les Pelerins which is about a 25 – 30 minute walk into the centre of Chamonix were the race starts in front of Saint-Michel’s church. We were up at 5:50am and out the door by 6:20am. That gave us 40 minutes to trot into town, we had to jog into town as the bus service doesn’t start early enough for the race. We got about 1/2 a mile down the road when Warren pointed out we had not put any sun lotion on. It had been hot the last few days and even though it was cloudy and drizzling it was forecast to brighten up around midday. Only one thing for it, yes thats right, Warren was to run back for the sun lotion whilst I waited with his pack. I couldn’t possibly go back, that would be too long a warm up and at least I didn’t make him run back with his pack on. Warren returned with the lotion about 9 minutes later and we jogged on to the start with about 10 minutes to spare. As Warren pointed out, “Well that’s my marathon turned into an ultra,” having now done a 2.5 mile warm up, talk about melodramatic, anyway I just didn’t respond.

Warren took the lead, jumping over the barrier so that we started at the front, in and amongst the Pro’s. With over 2,000 runners the queue tailed back around the corner past were the eye could see. He always manages to get me near the front which means a clearer start and avoids all the jostling which everyone knows can lead to a trip. The music was blaring and the crowds were out in force, cheering all their friends and family, the atmosphere was immense.

The Count down from 10 didn’t help my nerves, I mean what is wrong with a simple, quick 1, 2, 3 go. The pause between each number felt like forever as now I just wanted to go. Trois, Deux, Un and we were off, through the streets and then across into the woods and a shout out, go Karen, go Warren, I glimpsed Carol and Richard and then they were gone. Through woods it was undulating, nothing too severe and an 8 and 9 minute first 2 miles but I knew what was to come, Warren had made sure I knew, he wanted me to be prepared. Along the edge of a busy road the heavens opened but it was still warm and the rain was welcomed by all. This marathon lulls you into a false sense of security with a nice and easy rolling first 11 miles. But then the climbing starts with a 4 mile ascent of over 1200 meters. Once we stared climbing it felt like forever, up and up into the clouds, you could see in front of you but nothing more, the beautiful scenery from the days before had vanished into thick grey haze.

Once at the top relief usually follows on a descent with a chance to catch up and get a quick speedy mile in but not on these descents. A sharp, steep descent, made harder by the bracken, the roots and the rocks all slimy and slippery from the rain. Warren has done this race back in 2013 and this descent had loose ropes on it back then, now replaced by wooden ledges for steps which were caked in wet mud.

It wasn’t long before once again we were on the up. From Vallorcine its a relentless steep climb up to Aiguillettes des Posettes which is 23.3km (approx 14.5 miles) into the race and stands at 2,201meters. Next comes another steep descent and by now the sun was beating down on us but the views were magnificent. At this point and a number of other points during this race there is nothing wrong with slowing slightly to take in the awesome splendour or your surroundings. The zig zag descent was technical, a balancing act between picking up enough speed but not so much that you fall off the edge as experienced by the young man in front of me. As he went round a switchback one foot slipped over the edge followed by his other foot and he managed to spin himself around and grab the long grass holding on long enough for myself and Warren to pull him back up. Going over the edge is unthinkable when there is nothing but the side of the mountain. This made me more cautious the rest of the way down and of course putting on the brakes going downhill I knew my legs would pay for it later.

The bottom of this descent took us down to around 1,250 meters were there was no time to rest, no flat but back up to Le Bechar at 1,691 meters. Once at the top there were more switchbacks on the next descent. In and out of the trees and by now I really needed the shade. The problem with the shade was the tree roots because now I was feeling tired and concentration and focus was in order but left me as I stumbled a few times before ending up on my backside. To be honest everyone knows its rare for me to finish a trail race without falling and I was certainly kidding myself if I thought this was going to be any different.

Then from around 33.5km the course again ascends for over 3km to La Flegere standing at 1,865 meters. This climb was so tough and its fair to say I hit my all time low. The terrain was rocky, the climb was steep and the sun was blazing. I remember asking Warren if this was the last climb and this was a huge mistake because he said “no.” This was one of those moments when you ask a question that really deep down you do not want to know the answer to and as soon as I heard the word “no” I was overwhelmed with emotion. Never during any race or event have I felt that kind of emotion, I honestly thought that I was going to burst into to tears. Then I heard Warren “stop and come here.” He wrapped his arms around me and told me I was doing amazingly and that I was nearly there. He knows I hate to give up, I’m far too competitive and so we set off again up and up to the top.

La Flegere is 36.8km into the race and from this point the race becomes undulating and as Warren kept insisting runnable. Run this bit he kept saying and this was now a run, walk, run, walk, run race. The midday sun was now being felt by all and the more fatigued I got the harder it was to concentrate on running and drinking at the same time but somehow I managed it. Mainly because I had to, I felt that if I stopped now I would not start again.

This race is brutal and this is no more so than towards the end of this race. As we were running the flattest part of this course which is undulating I said to Warren that I felt I was doing more down than up and I wasn’t wrong as the route goes from 1,865 meters down to 1,810 meters. This is all for the final ascent to the finish, yes a punishing final 2.5 km up to 2,016 meters. There were lots of spectators along the final kilometres, all different nationalities and all different ages cheering on every competitor to the finish line.

We crossed the line together hand in hand and collected our finishers medals. We then collected a cup of Mont Blanc blonde beer before meeting up with our family whose support and encouragement make any and every race that bit easier. I could not be happier with my time of 6:55:46 and I’m extremely pleased to have come 639th out of 2,091 competitors finishing 38th in my age category and 52nd female overall.

Hand on heart this is the toughest race I have ever completed and even though it hurt towards the end both physically and mentally and almost reduced me to tears, there is not one second of regret. I have only done 2 previous marathons, both flat and both Manchester last year and this year. So yeah, you may think I’m insane but you only get one life and it should be lived to the full. The magnificent beauty that Chamonix has to offer is unbelievable. For me this was a chance to combine my love of running with my love of nature and the beauty the world has to offer. This is why I love off road running and why I can’t wait for my next challenge. To be continued…………

Sign up Now and Join the Harriers!

To those of you who have been training with us and thinking about joining the club, then now is the time.

From July 1st, the membership fee for the remainder of the year (end of 2017) will be reduced to just £26. This includes a £14 fee to register you as an official athlete with England Athletics. As an “attached” athlete, you are then entitled to claim the discount (usually £2), that many races offer.

The remaining £2 a month covers your twice weekly sessions, overseen by qualified coaches.

If it appeals to you, then you can run in two cross country leagues (starting in September) for no extra cost.


You would also be eligible to run for the club in the road relays which take place in September.

Don’t be put off by thinking that you aren’t good enough to join a club. All abilities are catered for and welcomed, and your support is vital in taking the club forward.

If you want more information then speak to one of the coaches at the sessions, or just reply to this email.

As I always say, you know that you want to wear that famous red striped black vest.

Please note that the discounted price is only available to new members. If you are a lapsed member who hasn’t trained with us this year due to injury, or other circumstances, then ask to see if you qualify.




Club entries for Wigan Trail 10k

Entries are flowing in fast for the 2017 edition of the Wigan Trail 10k race. We are currently 50/50 Club and non-club runners which is great as we always like a good mix of runners taking part. As usual we have a fairly equal mix of the sexes which seem to show we appeal to all!

One addition we made this year was to add additional prizes available to clubs that had more than 12 entries. The purpose of this was to both reward the support of other local clubs and make our race an attractive proposition to a Club’s Championship schedule. We are pleased to say it’s been popular and that so far two clubs have already met this criteria. St Helens Striders are just a whisker away, so any Striders out there if you manage to cajole a fellow club member to enter there’s a Club prize available for you guys too! The only question now is which club will have the largest number of entries!

Astley & Tyldesley Road Runners 20
Wesham Road Runners 19
St Helens Striders 11
Wigan & District Harriers & Ac 8
Liverpool Running Club 6

Please note as we need to have time to sort PIE logistics that entries will close slightly earlier on 1st May so don’t delay.

2017 Race details