Tag Archives: adventure

JW Ultra – 30 Miles – Stratford Upon Avon to Birmingham

Firstly I want to say thanks to the directors and others who helped to run this event! Special thanks go to Sharon who helps out at the event. Who went out of her way to start making vegan goody bags for those who wanted to take part who are vegan. There’s not many goody bags you’ll ever get with vegan organic flapjacks and organic chocolates. This was such a nice thing to do and that will stick with me for life. Also special thanks go to the Sea Cadet Centre in Kings Norton. They were all dressed in uniforms the adults and children and at the start line 30 miles away, on all check points and the finish line. They were so friendly and helpful to everyone. The kids couldn’t’ do enough to make sure you had what you needed. At the end it was funny to hear them saying “oh yes Scott needs a special goody bag!” haha 😀 I highly recommend ANYONE taking part in this event! If you can’t (don’t want to) run 30 miles then take part in the group relay teams where you can 10 miles each.

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I had run this distance and a little more 7 times up until this day. I considered myself an ultra runner, but not an ultra marathoner. I read something somewhere that states to be an ultra marathoner you have to have had actually run an event… not just run on your own. 5 of the previous were ran alone and 2 others with friends. So it’s great that I have popped my ultra marathon cherry 😉

It was a pretty epic day all round to be honest. The event was on Saturday 12th September 2015. I got up early and meditated to get myself focussed for the day. I got my bags together and headed for the bus stop. When I checked the timetable I realised I’d be safer with a taxi. So I called a taxi to collect me from the bus stop. This was an ace decision… when he turned up he saw my Vegan Store linen bag that had my check point drinks in it. He commented on it, and I though he was going to be a vegan hater. He asked where I was going and I said Cadet Centre as there’s a race today. He said “vegan and a runner? That’s pretty awesome. Well done”. Out of curiosity I asked if he was vegan and he said yes, and then went on to talk about how great Scott Jurek is and his recent achievement running over 2,000 miles. Then we discussed the contents of his book and his personality. All round I felt like I was in a dream lol.

When I arrived at the cadet centre there was free tea and coffee while we all waited for the hired coach to take us to the start line in Stratford Upon Avon… we would run 30 miles back here!

The raining had stopped by the time we arrived and it was looking promising to be a nice sunny day. Everyone put their bags in and check point drinks went into 2 different boxes for each checkpoint. We all then headed to the start line for briefing at 9:45.

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Photograph by Rob Hume. Thank you Very much.

Time was called at exactly 10 and off we went. It’s tricky enough to find your pace as it is on race day, but it was even more so today… there were a lot of relay teams and they were running 10 miles for each leg… so naturally a lot of them will be going faster than us doing the whole length. I kept an eye on my Garmin watch and made sure I didn’t go over 85-88% Max HR. I pretty much kept heart rate intensity for the entire race. Naturally I slowed down for the same HR after a while.

About 40 mins in it started absolutely throwing it down. Luckily this only lasted for about 10 minutes and then it cleared up and we had a really nice day all day… not too hot and not too cold. Plenty of sun, but enough shelter from over hanging trees alongside the canal towpaths.

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Some people can’t stand the canals for running. They get bored of the flatness or the winding narrow body of water stretching for miles. I like the canals… it helps me to zone out and get on with it. The first half was a slight incline due to there being so many locks, but it wasn’t anything too difficult.The second half was flat as a pancake apart from a climb about 2 miles from the end as you need to come up to the road and get back on the canal 2 streets across.

I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. I briskly walked up the steeper locks and ran the rest. From about mile 18 I turned off my music, and I started counting every time my right foot hit the ground. I did this from 1-20 and I just kept doing that all the way to the end! There were a few breaks in between were I chatted with a few of the other runners out there. I just kept checking my time every once in a while so I could have some dates and liquids every half an hour from my waist belt.

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Photograph by Rob Hume. Thank you Very much.

The last mile and half is a section of another canal that I run several times a week so I starting picking up the pace knowing I was right near the end then. I came over the finish line with a finishing time of 5 hours and 5 minutes. This is 40 minutes off my previous personal record for this distance. I claimed my VEGAN Goody RUCKSACK, ate some tangerines and waited for my friends to finish.

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There we have it. End of my first ever successful season. I have been running a few years now but have been held back by injuries every season before. I’m starting to learn my body, what works and what doesn’t. I’m getting stronger. I have done 5 races this season and got 5 personal bests. Now I’m taking 2 ish weeks recovery and then I’ll be starting a new season as I prepare myself for the beast that is Enigma’s Week at the Knees – 1 week of marathons every day 😀

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Summer Around the Reservoir Marathon 2015 in Northampton UK

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26th July 2015 was my first marathon event. I have ran this distance more about a dozen times now. I just hadn’t ran in any event beyond half marathon.

The night before the race I ate about 600g of boiled potatoes with a can of baked beans. I also drank about 3 litres of water the day before race day. The night before I also put some overnight oats in the fridge. I had about 150g oats and covered this with soya milk. You then put it in the fridge and it goes soft over night and tasted even yummier than cooked porridge. I only just heard about this method by one of my friends Mélanie.

The things I had prepared to take with me were my Vegan Runners Tshirt, My fluorescent yellow short running shorts (which I found out at the end showed everything once soaked :O ), My Hoka trail sneaks, my toe socks, my Salomon Lab waist belt and collapsible water, my headsweats cap to stop so much rain getting in my face and 240g of dates which were squeezed into little zippie bags. I had 2 bags each hour (60g) which gave me 40g of carbs each hour…. oh and I brought a waterproof seal bag to put my phone in for music. (never took lotion after seeing the weather).

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On the morning I lathered up my feet with petroleum jelly. I use Cotton Tree which can be found in many discount stores and £ shops. This product company has been contacted and is 100% vegan 🙂
I put some on my nipples too. I dunno why as I have never had any nipple problems before but I thought just in case. In my holding bag I brought 4 Lucozade orange sport drinks (2 for me and 2 for Steve if he wanted them), spare socks and hoka conquest sneaks, bio degradable small waste sacks, tracksuit bottoms, underwear and a clean tshirt to put on later.

I woke up at 5:10am, got dressed and had breakfast. Me and Philip were both ready to be collected at 6am by my friend Steve and his partner Rhian. Philip was coming along to show us support as he wasn’t working. It was nice that Rhian was going too so they could keep each other company in between laps. I can’t say how much their support helped. May not have had this luxury in other events.

The registration was from 8am and we wanted to give ourselves a nice 2 hour cover to get there safely on time. We got there at about 7:40am. We noticed registration was already open, as people were already warming up with a light run, wearing bibs as we entered the Holiday Inn car park.

The event is in Northampton and consists of 6 laps around this reservoir. It’s a nice route. I would say about 1/4 to 1/3 of it was man made path and the rest was grass trails.

So at 8:50 we were all called to the start line for the 9am start. We took a few minutes walk to reach it. They announced some people who had done this same run yesterday and was doing it again today. They also announced someone who done this run yesterday and the day before. I quickly checked my sneakers were tight enough, but not too tight. Me and Steve wished each other luck and then we set off. I started with a few seconds of walking really and then really slowly picked it up.

I find it hard pacing my first few miles. If it’s a busy race it’s hard to make a good first mile, if it’s a quiet race I find it hard to go slowly. I had planned to bring in an average 10 minute mile on my first mile but I got a 9:40. I could see Steve ahead of me after about 1/3 a mile coming onto the reservoir trail. I could just about see him by the green middle strip around the Vegan Runners Tshirt. It was dry until about half an hour into the race. Then it started spitting. Each lap was about 4.36 miles. I managed to slow down a bit for the rest of the lap making my rough average of about 10 minute miles. When making the first lap I wondered where Philip and Rhian were. I checked my time and said each lap would be about 45 minutes… couldn’t see them anywhere. Not to worry because I still had date packets and I can get water at the drinks station, I don’t need energy drink right now. I grabbed a cup of water, threw it down my gullet and chucked the plastic cup into the garbage bag and off I went again.

I realised as I got into lap 2 that I was feeling a bit stronger than I thought. I then decided to pick up the pace a little and see what happens. Again about 1/3 into the route I could once again see Steve going around the reservoir. He looked like he was keeping up a good pace and sticking with it. I decided I would try and do a few miles in within the 9 minute range average and see how I got on. I was toying with the idea that if I felt comfortable doing this, I may make it to 8:45-8:55 minute miles later on and bag myself a sub 4 hour race. That would be awesome.

After I got around to half way through this second lap I was really needing to pee. I’m not sure how because I had been sat on the loo for 15 minutes while waiting for the race to begin back at Holiday Inn. I started to think if I had been acquainted with a portaloo since arriving, and I didn’t think I had so knew it would be a Holiday Inn toilet job. As I got closer to the end of lap 2 I was wondering if Philip and Rhian would be here this time. They were which was good so I grabbed a Lucazade orange off them and some more packs of dates for my waist pack. I then ran to the bathrooms quickly, thanked reception and off I went again into my third lap.

I was listening to some mixes off YouTube while running. By now the rain got a bit heavier. The tracks I listened to were progressive house tracks and they just kinda had a flow to them that really helped with my running. It was a quiet event with only 54 runners on the results for this day. So over the distance you were pretty spread out throughout the course. At some points I couldn’t see anyone in front of me or behind me. The music helped me keep pushing on. I also had a Rockstep track which is a mix of dubstep and rock/metal music. This was for my angry moments. I never got any angry moments though. I did get some tough parts, but I’ll talk about them as I get to them in the race.

I remember coming up to the half way mark… I’d ran 13.1 miles nearly and I felt great… could I do that again? Oh fuck yes! “wait hang on why so sure of yourself?.. erm cus that was easy. OK then you need to pick it up a bit… this is a marathon and it’s not supposed to be EASY”. A bit arrogant? Maybe, but it was true to how I felt and helped keep pushing me on. I remember switching everything off around me and just going. As I came to the end of this lap I noticed Steve talking to Philip and Rhian. I’d expected him to start running with me as I passed. Only later when watching a video Philip was recording at the time, did I even realise Philip was calling to me. He was asking if I wanted anything and I just ran right past lol. Poor Philip sorrrrry 😀 I had 2 cups of water at the drinks station this time and on I went.Towards the end of lap 3 I was on a mission to get under 4 hours at the end of the race.

Now I’m into lap 4, and I knew that I could start focussing on staying just below 9 minute miles now and try and get my average for the whole race down as close to 9 minute miles as possible. This would put me just under 4 hours at the finish line. The rain was really coming down now. It was belting down on the first road section of the course. Bouncing off the ground and making puddles very quickly. Also the temperature dropped quiet a bit. My feet were now soaked. The Hoka trails waterproof covering had served me well though to this point. Oh lets not forget the wind which was inevitable with the cold air, rain and open reservoir grounds. I was running enough though to not notice this and kept soldiering on. I noticed that when I turned by the other end of the reservoir I couldn’t see Steve behind me. I’d passed him earlier on the road section as there’s a bit of an out and back section. We high-five each other and he shouted “go on Scotty!”.

I started to notice that I didn’t have enough bags of dates to complete comfortably. I’d maintained 2 bags every hour but started to wonder why I seemed to be 2 bags short, as I thought Philip had passed all my bags by now. As I approached the end of this lap they were not there. I fancied my energy drink then as well. I was a little panicked. This showed on my next lap. I slowed a bit as I worried I was out of fuel. I think because I had started to ration I was losing momentum. Also my feet felt really heavy due to all the rain absorbed into my sneaks, and the course was getting pretty muddy. I switched my music down as it was becoming a distraction. Every time my right foot hit the ground I counted 1 step. I kept doing this from a count of 1 just up to 4. I repeated this over and over a few dozen times and when my focus strengthened again, I upped this to a count of 1 up to 10 then 1 up to 20. I knew I was slowing down as my average pace over the distance so far, had slowed down from about 9:14 to 9:22 minute miles. Still I passed Steve again at the bisection. I don’t know whether he noticed my counting over and over lol. We high-fived again (I think, I can’t really remember now :O I then grabbed my phone out of my waist pack and dialled through to Philip. “Please can you be there at the end of this next lap? I don’t know how long I will be maybe 20 mins but I need fuel!” He said he was on his way there now and I thanked him and and kept on going.

As I started to approach the end of lap 5 I could see Philip and Rhian in the distance. For the last 10 minutes all I’d been able to think about was clean sneakers and socks. I was debating the idea though as I knew they were tarmac Hoka Conquest sneakers and the trail had got seriously muddy now. I decided it was worth the risk. I called over while approaching. “New sneakers and socks please quickly”. Philip started to get them out for me as I ripped off my sneaks and socks. Sneakers were hard to remove due to a bit of swelling I think lol. New socks and shoes and off I was… I grabbed my last energy drink and 2 packs of dates!!!!…. and 2 waters at the drink station. I knew I’d only need half the energy drink and didn’t’ want to carry the weight. So I squeezed half out on as I ran and drank the rest, then put the empty bottle in one of my back pockets on my waist belt.

My feet felt fresh again and the rain had stopped… “thanks for being a king and generous mother”… I called to Earth. I felt A OK again. I still kept it a bit slower as I wanted to make sure everything was good and that I could finish strong. Also I was right about the slipperiness of the ground. I managed by staying n the grass and not the mud trail that ran through the grass. The energy started to kick in pretty quickly from my drink and I started to speed up for the last few miles. I knew I was going to miss the sub 4 hour mark at this point. I still picked it up as I thought I’d like to be sub 4:05:00. As I kicked my pace up on the final stretch at 8:35 minute miles I kept looking at my watch and it was showing 04:04 but not the seconds. I was striving to get through before it hit 5 minutes. As I passed the mark though they called my time as 4:05:03 and I was 19th out of 54 . This gives me an average pace of 9:21 minutes per mile. Still I wanted anything under 5 hours and so I can’t complain about this time at all. Also in the end I never ate those last 2 packs of dates. 😉

Other runners congratulated me and me them. We all shook hands. I grabbed my big chunky medal which I love, and my goody bag. Swapped the cheese and onion crisps for ready salted and donated the other sweets to other runners. I then went up to near the end line where Rhian and Philip were. Philip asked how I was… I swore “effing hell” (only jokingly) and we waited for Steve. Only 5 minutes behind my time Steve came running up. We cheered and shouted him to keep going. He passed us and we walked down to greet with him at the finish.

Both soaked, a little tired and very happy we took a picture together and then got dried off and then all headed back to Birmingham 🙂

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On a plus note we both mentioned we weren’t overly tired. I had a hard few miles of panic but we both could have done better. We were also cautious not to overdo it as we have the JW Ultra 30 mile event coming up mid September.

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Woke up today, legs a bit stiff around the knees but feeling pretty good. I think I’ll do a bit of swimming this next few days and try getting out for a few shortish runs towards the end of the week and resume training for the Ultra 😀

Thanks to the organisers of this event. I really enjoyed it and I’m hoping that next year I may be able to return to do both marathons one a day after the other. If you fancy this run next year then you can check it out at the Madeyarun website. Also thanks to Philip and Rhian for their support. It meant a lot and helped so much especially towards the end when I had fresh sneakers 😉

Thanks for reading. Everyone.
Peace and love
-ScottyRunner

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Birmingham & Black Country Half Marathon – 4th July 2015

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I had been looking forward to this race for a while. I did the Birmingham and Black Country Half Marathon last year too. Last year and I completed 13.6 miles in 1:58:12.

The few days prior to the race I had been seriously carbing myself up with lots of raw vegan fresh fruits and vegetables. I believe lately that this type of eating is dramatically helping with my previous injuries, which have now completely gone after nearly a year, and recovery. Look at Wednesday 1st July 2015 for example. Only 3 days before the Half Marathon I ran 30 Miles. I got home and ate 1kg of cherries (which are great for inflammation), had an ice bath and when I got out of the bath I felt great. The next day I felt as if I had never even ran the day before… let alone 30 miles. I was gobsmacked.

On the morning I ate 4 bananas and 175g of dates about 2.5 hours before the run. I also had 75 cl water.

Aaaaaanyway. So me and my husband Philip met my friend Steve at Northfield Train station and set out to Birmingham New St where we would meet Thom, and get a connecting trail service to Wolverhampton where the run starts.

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Here is a picture of Philip who can’t go five minutes without a coffee and Steve looking a bit sleepy as well.

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Here’s a pic of Steve kindly helping Philip set up the Garmin 310XT I let him use on race day to keep an eye on his average and actual current pace.

When we got to Nw St station we were all over the place with the typical switching platforms. They switched platforms one minute before the train was due to leave. Though they switched it to a platform in which they had closed off the escalators. I have seen this a lot lately. I’m not sorry if someone from the station reads this but I think you need to start using your brains. That station is supposed to be an upcoming better and mega big modern station. At the moment it’s a pile of wank! Get it sorted please. What a mess! Finally we found ourselves on the right platform after a massive detour. We found a table seat to sit at and Thom found us on the train and sat with us… Yay the group together.

We nattered about expected times etc and helped settle our nerves a bit as we watched others already running down the canal, as we took the train parallel to it. This race is done in waves which is good for those wanting faster times I guess. 😀

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Here we all are. Finally made it after almost following another runner who was obviously going the wrong way to the start line lol. Aren’t we a sexy bunch of runners? Gotta be the plants! 😀 Philip decided to do a bit of a meditation before we set out on the course.

Our wave was at 10:30 so we all checked our bags in to be taken to the finish line, queued for the toilets, checked if their high energy drinks where Vegan (and they were), and nattered by the start line waiting to be called. A guy who had a Cancer Research top on came and chatted with me a while. He was a nice guy. He talked about how he was doing weight training and realised that it was all just vanity and he really wanted to make a difference. He wanted to run for charity and help a “good” cause. I thought that was so nice of him. Although he can be making better choices…. I’m not going to judge him and tell him about his mistakes just before his first ever half marathon. He took a very keen interest in my Veganism you see, he didn’t judge me or anything but was really curious and asked about how long I’d done it, my energy levels, running, ethical reasons. I decided I would give him just enough basic details to hopefully research it further at home and then maybe find out about Cancer Research too and switch to something else.

So we were called to the start line for briefing at 10:15. They discussed the typical rules of a race, keep hydrated and what to do if injured or pulling out etc. Then we went through a gap in the wall on the little dock to the canal. Here a guy called your number when you got to the front of the queue. You stepped over a black line mat on the ground and your timing chip began… as did my Garmin watch, naturally. I also started listening to a chillout compressed half hour Linkin Park Track. I wanted to listen to their full heavy album to get me going. To my surprise though my iPhone for some reason has removed it when I plugged it into the PC the day before.

I was now running. Steve was by me and we were going out pretty fast. In fact we wanted about an 8:20 minute mile average and this first mile was done in 7:38. About a mile in I called to Steve “hey if we keep this sort of pace up we will be making it in a killer time! We obviously both felt very strong at the time. I think about mile 2 I asked how his knee was after he injured it 3 days before and it was feeling fine. He had a knee support pad on and I don’t think he even KNEEded it in the end 😉 Shortly after that I went on a little as I was feeling comfortable and I saw a geezer with a backpack on who looked like an ultra runner. I thought about keeping up with his pace as it looked like the kind of pace I’d have liked to complete the race in. I was behind this guy for a few miles just tailing him. Eventually I overtook him.

Mile 3 and it was the first check point. I went for a water and no high energy drink this time. I don’t normally hydrate until 45-60 minutes but with the land I was covering at this pace and the hot sun shining down on me I started hydrating early!

I had now changed my music over to a Chillstep track I had on there. I have just got into Chillstep. It’s absolutely BEAUTIFUL music to run to. If you search “chillstep” into Youtube you will find loads of tracks over an hour long you can just play and enjoy!

Although the music is beautiful, any music can be a distraction on race day. I turned the music right down to level 1 so I could hardly hear it but could hear nature around me as I wove in and out and round the snaking towpath.
About mile 4 I started to slow down a bit. The sun was belting down on my bare head. I wish I’d kept my headsweats hat and not put in my bag. Hey ho what’s passed is passed and I know for future reference now.
By mile 5 I was down to 8:18 minute miles, but still on target easily for an average 8:20 minute mile race overall.

I had noticed that around mile 4 or 5 we had started to catch up with some people from the earlier waves. This was nice as it gave me plenty of opportunity to spur people on.

I knew my pace was slowing so I started meditating right away. The first thing I do when I begin a meditation while running is to remind my body to relax. I make sure my shoulders and back are both relaxed. I make sure my arms are swinging nicely with lose fists swinging back and forth gently at a 90o angle at the elbow. I make sure my chin is up and I’m looking ahead at the ground in the distance, not right under in front of my feet. I check in with my breath and try to get a bit of rhythm to it. Next I begin the counting. I step with my left foot and then my right and count 1 on my right step. I step with my left foot again and then my right and I count 2 with my right step. Every other right step I count 3,4,5 all the way up to 20. As soon a I hit 20 I start again at 1. I do this over and over and over until I’m lost in trance.

Next checkpoint, mile 6, excellent! This time It’s a water and a high energy drink and on I go! 1,2,3,4,5……20,1,2,3,4,5……..20…… I was now lost again in counting when I heard one of my favourite parts of my music come on. I turned it up full blast and got lost in the euphoria of awesome music and awesome running in an awesome atmosphere. As the track switched to a new one, I turned it back down and started to focus on the counting again. I notice I had slowed to about 8:30 minute miles and I felt that I needed to slow down further, and give myself a bit of a respite should I wish to complete in good form at a good pace.

Check point 3 at 9 miles creeped up on me, and I took 2 waters. 1.5 to drink and 0.5 over head. Which left me feeling like I’d drank sea water as I carried on running. I had reduced my counting now to 8. I learned that as your focus becomes less then you can count less numbers over and over and over and increase them as your focus becomes stronger. I wouldn’t go over 100 though. There were a lot of people from earlier waves at this point who were walking. It’s understandable. There isn’t much shade on this route and the sun was belting down on us all, while we were all trying to push ourselves as much as we could to that finish line. It was an honour to be able to try and push people on. Calling to people to keep up the good work, and reminding them “you got this” and “not far now”.

As I approached mile 10 Steve come up to me. He ran by my side for a few moments as he called “Come on Scotty you are faster than this”. I told him I got too cocky and set out too quickly so was preserving some energy for the end. He went on ahead. This spurred me on a bit to trail behind him a while. I called to him “Go Steve Go Go Go! Show us Vegans proud! WOOOOOOOOOOO”, I must admit I was a little hyped. I was just so happy at that moment. The finish line wasn’t far off, people out here doing the same thing on their weekends off, the sun, the nature, the beautiful green and birds and canal. Also because Steve was limping about like mad a few days before. I was so worried his knee injury was going to hamper his day today, but it didn’t. I kept praying he’d be ok and now here he was charging forward relentlessly, making excellent time on his race!.

Steve got a bit ahead for a while. We past the last checkpoint at mile 12 where I got 2 water. Necked em back and made a final push for it. Funnily enough mile 13 was my slowest at 9:05 minute miles. I did manage to creep back up closer to Steve though. There were 2 girls inbetween us who were from a previous wave. I overtook them. We were so close to the finish line. I saw Steve and I knew if I kept going at this pace (7:10) I’d catch up and we could run through the finish together both wearing our Vegan Runners tops. I knew the commentator would perhaps call our finish and we could show people Vegans can do this shit too! As I got closer Steve turned and saw me approaching. He thought I was going to overtake him, and I certainly didn’t have the energy to explain my idea to him. He looked shocked and he turned and made one final dash for it and over the finish line. I came in 7 seconds later 🙂 I was 249th place which put me just inside the top quarter of 1000 entrants. My final time was 1:52:16 which is a great improvement on 1:58:12. Also it was a slightly shorter distance at 13.4 rather than 13.6 due to changed route.

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Here’s a group of me Steve and Ian Mackenzie at the finish. Well done on your time of 1:38:25 Ian.

Well done to fellow Vegan Runner Mike Tomkins who came 22nd and had an awesome time of 1:27:46. Well done to him getting it doing in that heat and that time 😀

I did my usual stretching routine and then we headed to baggage reclaim and got our goody bags. We then went back to the finish line to wait for Philip and Thom. We also tucked into 4 big bags of Satsumas nom nom nom. These were soooooo refreshing.

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Philip has been commuting to work and back running for a few months now. He hasn’t really done much long running but gave it a good go. This was his first half marathon and he wanted to complete it in about 2 hours 30 mins . He came through in 2 hours 32 mins. Fantastic job Philip well done. I was sooo proud of him.

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Shortly after that Thom came through too. I was really surprised with Thom. Not that I didn’t think he could do it but that he hadn’t done ANY training hardly. He did a 8 miler with me about 2 months ago and one other run since then. He used to run a lot and his previous PB was 1:52 I think (correct me if I’m wrong). I know that doing this today is going to have such a positive impact on him. I know it’s going to give him so much drive to get out there and train again and get fit. There’s no way he will leave this gap between his PB and this run. Which is excellent. Just the inspiration he needs. Anyway to have completed at all given the circumstances shows his mental strength and how AWESOME plant based diets are 😀   11705160_1675415116022807_3794626221627591209_n
We all chatted a while and baked in the sun eating satsumas and then sharing the 2 large punnets of strawberries that Thom brought with him too mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. . Steve left a bit earlier as I think he wanted to take buses rather than the trains. We then made our way up the canal path and through the ICC back to New St station.
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For recovery when I got home the first thing I did was have a bath filled with cold water and a bag of ice cubes. This works wonders for the next day. I also had another 700 grams of strawberries and 250 grams of delicious raspberries. The next day? I’m feeling fine and ready to continue training next week as normal 😀

I would highly recommend this event, it’s well organised and a wonderful route. They have also taken off a big hill and off road section, so the whole thing is now on towpaths and really flat. There’s just a few bridges to cross over towards the end, and a loooooong tunnel to go through, but nothing major to stop you getting a decent time on a flat. This was my second year and I’m hoping to do it again next year if it doesn’t interfere with potential of doing Race to the Stones instead.
Summer around the reservoir marathon next 26th July 2015!

Thanks for reading.


Fast Packing. Birmingham > Worcester > Malvern > Bewdley > Kidderminster

On Sunday 14th June 2015 I decided to do some fast packing. I had been keeping an eye on the weather in the areas I would be passing, and it seemed the perfect time to go. My plan was to do roughly 90 miles from Birmingham, I would go down the Birmingham – Worcester Canal past Worcester and follow it further south to meet with the River Severn. I would camp at a camp site here. The next day I would walk to Malvern which is an area of outstanding natural beauty. I would then start the Worcestershire Way Trail heading north to Bewdley where I would then repeat the North Worcestershire Way trail for the second time this week. The idea was to do one big circular from my house back to my house. So that’s the overview.. and this is how it went.

I packed my usual stuff with me, 20L WAA Ultra Bag 1 man hiking tent, spare tshirt, long johns,spare socks, Thermarest XLite inflatable mattress, OMM Raider 1.0 sleeping bag, Sleeping bag liner, Marmot Essence waterproof jacket. For food I packed 2kg of dates (I did eat in some places along the way though) and I carried 1.5 L bottle of water which I finished off and topped up whenever I could. I didn’t bring my Petzl headtorch as I like to just sleep when it gets dark and I had one on mobile if urgent. I also carried a recharging unit which allowed me to recharge my Garmin Fenix 2 for the entire duration and my iphone about 3 times also. Finally a little cash and a card.

I set out from my house in Northfield Birmingham at 10:30am. I walked down to Wast Hills Lane where I joined up with the canal to Worcester. This path is pretty much down hill the entire time. Even though I walked a fair bit I struggled with this section. I think perhaps because I wasn’t used to carrying 8KG of stuff with me while running. Also what made it hard is that the council has started to turn the tow paths into tarmac paths instead which hurts under foot wearing studded Salomon Speedcross 3s. I have such a love hate relationship with these shoes and I have said before that I would throw them away. This time I have. For a country with little long distance TRAIL ONLY routes I find these to be pretty useless in the way of a quality long distance sneaker. Walking on tarmac roads over long distances with heavy weights on your back, with the studs on the bottom pushing into your feet every 180,000 steps or so over 90 miles really hurts. I’m going to opt for HOKA ONE ONE Maximalist trailies next time.

Regardless I really enjoyed this day. It was familiar ground as I have ran this route 6 times now. There was only the small section past Worcester down to the River Severn I wasn’t sure on but I knew from looking at maps it was very straight forward and I could just follow the Severn Way Sign Posts.
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I remember seeing this boat shortly after being set on fire by idiots. The owner has been trying to fix t for many months now. To his, and everyone else’s surprise, some bastard had let it lose overnight and it had drifted down the canal well away from anywhere to tie it up. The owner was just leaving as I arrived, he was very upset and I think had given up on it completely as he walked away soaking wet.

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In winter I went the wrong way here and it lead to a horrible dumpy looking cul de sac. I took this picture because as the seasons have progressed it looked just beautiful.

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I like bridges for some reason 😉 Hence all the bridge images.

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Happy moment. Knowing that I wasn’t too far now from Worcester and then only a few more miles south to the first nights camping spot.

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Tried to have a little talk with this swan but he got a bit aggressive with me and tried to bite me lol. Little bugger.

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Once I got into Worcester I spotted a Subway and decided to get myself a Salad Sub 😀

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It was a nice moment to get the River Severn. I hadn’t been this far down before.



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Yay first signs for the Severn Way. Another trail I must do. It’s 150 miles but it’s all downhill so should be a nice one. Right down to Bristol. 🙂


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I
 arrived at The Ketch Campsite early evening. I spoke with the warden there and paid for my hiking tent. This site was right along the river. Lovely location, though you can see why they don’t allow children under 11 here. You can just about see the tips of the Malvern Hills past the River Severn in the distance. That’s where I was heading the next day.
I did about 28 miles on this first day. Throughout the day I found myself running a few miles here and there when I could be bothered and wasn’t on stoned or tarmacked ground. I didn’t see this as a race. Just going how I felt.

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It was a hard boring 7.5 mile walk to Malvern Hills. I set off at 5am. I tried to plan a trail route but I wasn’t confident in the trail I had created through an advanced route creator online. I worried a lot of it was closed off completely to public so I opted for an A road which ran right to Malvern.

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I sort of did one of those little happy dances when I saw this sign. I knew I’d soon be off the busy A road and onto the quieter hills where I belonged.

When I arrived into Malvern the first thing I did was go to COSTA and buy a Soya Latte. I warmed up with this and chilled for a while before heading back out, to a shop to top up water and then to The Hills.

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I wish I’d have been here during the afternoon. I was on the East side of the hills and because the sun rises in the East it made it hard to get a good snap of how amazing this view was. You could just see for absolute miles on end of farm lands and tiny villages. There were even a few hot air balloons.

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When I got to the top of the hills I started the Route for Worcester Way which I had saved to my Garmin as a GPX file. I was so upset by this. My Garmin Fenix 2 allows you to set how often it records data. I had set it to record every 2 minutes on UltraTrac rather than every second. The result being up to 50 hours battery life. When I activated the route onto my current session (from day one point 1) it changed the recording frequency to SMART and wouldn’t let me decide how often. The dilemma here was that I would need to not use my phone or music anymore and keep charging my Garmin much more with my recharging unit. The alternative would be to save what I had done so far and start a new one to put the settings back to UltraTrac. As I wasn’t even sure I’d have enough recharges for the duration of my journey I decided to save that session and begin a new one. I decided what I would do instead was select “map” option on the Worcestershire Way and follow that. Sadly when I zoomed in further the line showing the route went off the watch so I couldn’t even see where I was going unless I had it at a 30 mile radius. I realised I would have to rely on way marks for the next 65 miles.

This is clearly something I’m going to have to look into. I loved the idea of Fenix 2 for it’s ability to upload GPX or create routes and have such long battery but it seems the battery wont last that long if you use a predetermined route? Why is this? If you have any alternative suggestions that please do let me know. If this wasn’t a waymarked route and I didn’t have a charged phone I would have never made it as far as I did.

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This is looking back to the Malvern Hills I had walked up and across earlier.

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I believe this is the River Teme. There’s a little Post office around there called Suckly Post Office. I’m not 100% now on locations sorry. Anyway I remember going in to top up my water and I also bought a few apples. I went outside and sat on the bench to eat them. To my surprise a young guy came up to me and asked if I was Vegan. He had spotted my Vegan Runners top and said he was vegan too. He also mentioned he had seen some of my posts on the Vegan Runners Facebook group. It was really nice to bump into a fellow vegan especially in a place like this population 10. He seemed a really happy person and said how lucky he was to live in such a beautiful place in the world. We wished each other well and on I went. Maybe he might read this post… if so say hello 😀

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I stopped at a The Talbot pub in this little village called KnightWick and had two portions of chips and a large lemonade. I piled on the salt to replace my salt loss.

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Here is another trail I would like to look up. I hope it is full of geological delights. I have a keen interest in geology 😉
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I was getting pretty tired by this point and was considering camping around here. I’m not very good at wild camping. When I was a kid I did it all the time but now as an adult and knowing it’s illegal I never know. Also I don’t know if there’s anyone around in the area. It did seem ideal as a place to camp for the night though.
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At about mile 30-32 on day 2 I was just turning to go down a hill in the forest. I spotted the lower half of a guy running. He hadn’t spotted me yet and I made a flash decision to start running. There was no way I was going to slog my way down a steep hill in my VEGAN RUNNERS top that he was running UP! So I got going and he said hey. The funny thing was that even after slogging for so many miles that day I managed to pretty much run the last 8 miles all the way into Bewdley.

About a mile out from Bewdley I ran into some danger. This was the only trail I knew of into the village and it really was a race against the sun at this point. I came across a field with what I thought was cows. They seemed relaxed and I (unknowing how dangerous bulls were at the time) decided to take the trail. As I passed about 5 of the 8 or so bulls they blocked off the was I came in. Which meant I had a longish climb uphill to the exit and had to pass 4 more  up the hill in the process. Their attitude changed and they began to group up an run in my direction. I turned to face them and slowly walked backwards. I really wanted to run but I knew that bulls are faster than people and I had already done 38 or 39 miles today! I didn’t know how to react so I faced them but didn’t look into their eyes. I opened my arms and showed them my palms. I firmly but calmly said to them “nooooo, come on now… easy boys, you’re ok, I’m not going to hurt you.”. The lead bull settled back a bit and I thought I might be ok. Then one of the other bulls took lead and they all began to charge at me again. This time he got within 2 or 3 meters of me but I managed to somehow get them to calm again. This happened 5 times in total. I really thought I was going to die. So many people get a blow to the head or their body’s crushed. I got out safely though. I managed to find the exact field on Garmin Connect. I sent an email to the Long Distance Path Association to ask who I contact about this. It is my understanding (I could be wrong) that it is highly illegal for farmers to block public rights of way with dangerous cattle and no warning signs or alternative route signs.

As I got into Bewdley I started to pick up the pace as I headed for the River Severn once more 🙂
I went to The Cooperative to top up my water and buy 600g of Strawberries. My body was craving fruit and lots of it. I wandered along the Canal Path going into my first mile of the North Worcestershire Way. I stopped on a bench and rested a while. I then put on my other top and a jacket as I was starting to shiver. The sun was going down, it was about 9:30pm now. My feet were completely bashed. It was my intention to wild camp in the middle of Worcestershire way like I said, but I decided to take it all the way to Bewdley.

This day was much tougher than my first day. It was in no means downhill. There was a total of at least 1,560 m (5,118 ft) ascent. Yet that day I felt much stronger. I wasn’t feeling my bag hurt my shoulders so much and I felt like my feet were capable of more even if torched at the end. I remember whenever it got tough I would count my steps to 20 and then repeat. I did this continuously sometimes for an hour or more non stop. Whenever my mind drifted initially I refocussed back to counting and just got lost in the rhythm of counting. When pain set in I would also notice it as just a feeling. I would remind myself it’s a feeling, it isn’t me. It’s physical and I’m just an observer of this physical body.

So day and light was ending and I needed a place to camp. I could hardly walk at this point and I wobbled up the river about a mile to find somewhere safe to put my tent. In the end I put it not too far from a main road but a really well darkened spot. This site turned out to be a car park for the private fishing anglers association. I know this because at 2:45am there were car lights coming into my tent which woke me up. I quickly opened the zip on the tent to see what it was. I could then see him get out the car and close the barrier to the car park. His reg plate was something like SLOTS or something. I panicked. I thought he had seen me from the road and now he was coming to kill me. He went to his boot and started sorting out his murdering tools. I called “hello?”. He replied “Hi you ok? I’m just here fishing. Didn’t mean to give you a fright. You do know this is the fishers car park?”. I apologised and explained I had walked a long way and ran out of light and just pitched up. I kept my eye on him a while and could finally see it was fishing stuff in his car. Then I tried to sleep again.

I only got 3 hours rest that night. I remember getting up at 3:30am and packed up to carry on the final part of my journey.
This is where the big problems started. My eyes kept dropping and I kept seeing things. I stopped to eat a shed load of dates to give me energy and drank a load of water. I kept walking along the river. There’s some grassy areas along the river and so naturally my feet and socks got soaked. I kept praying for warmth to come through and sun so that hopefully my sneakers will dry. They didn’t though and my skin soon folded and blistered which became really painful. I was only a few miles into my day and had to do 34 miles in total for the day.
11140267_1669042419993410_6109479989292645280_n I know this is nothing compared with other runners feet pics I have seen lol. This has now become a top priority for me to master, not only to deal with blisters (I’ll use my Fixing Your Feet book), but also how to keep them dry. I have T184 mile Endurance Race in 2016 and I know that the grass will be wet in the mornings along the River Thames. It was enough to knock my morale and make me stop my journey.

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As I walked up hills in the forest there was a big drop to the right of me and I didn’t see the drop but I saw a lake and kept hallucinating. I kept thinking how I’d like to take a dip in the lake but it wasn’t really there and the picture eventually became clear and all I saw was a the big dip that was really there.

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Here I am looking exhausted and feeling it. I was sat on one of those wooden cross over fence things. It felt so nice to have something to sit on and get my feet off the ground.

At about mile 8 of today I remember just starting to cry. I kept slogging along at like 3mph. I kept thinking about how I wanted to just lay down on the ground and sleep. Even just for an hour. I realised that 3 hours sleep after 40 miles isn’t enough to sustain another 34 miles the next day. I wanted today to be the last day and reach the end. At mile 12 I kept losing the way marks and getting lost. I felt disorientated and realised I was walking around in circles.
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I only continued another 5 ish miles and then I decided to come off the trail and head to a local pub to eat and call for a taxi home. I was 15 miles away from finishing my planned journey. Although when I got home and calculated the distance I thought it would be 89 miles and it was 89.9 for what I did. So I had actually done more than expected. This stands to reason as I got lost on a few occasions.

I had told myself that it comes to a certain point that when you believe you have found what you where looking for there’s no real need to keep looking. I had learned so much for future events and adventures that it was now time to go home and analyse all the information that I had absorbed from this experience.

I want to thank my husband who helped me along the way with the odd text of support from him. Also I want to thank everyone on my Facebook friends. I made a post to ask for their support as I was feeling it emotionally at the end of day 2. I had so many replies. I was absolutely gob smacked. Thank you so much for your support it meant the world to me and still does. You made me cry… just a little 😉 Xoxo

My hat goes off to those out there running 100 milers and more. I can’t wait to get to that point. I have had little training due to injuries lately. I’m seriously looking forward to getting some proper training behind my belt for some ultra events and some more fast packing.

Who knows that’s next? I am now tapering for the Birmingham Black Country Half marathon on July 4th. As I write this it’s only a day since I got home and I’m feeling much better already and hope to be back out running as normal tomorrow.

I have the JW ultra coming up in September it’s 30 miles on the canal from Stratford Upon Avon to Birmingham. My friend has offered for my to come and practice the route with him soon. I think we are going to after we have done the Summer Round the Reservoir Marathon on 26th July in Northampton.


North Worcestershire Way

CIMG01729:00am and our alarm went off. I stuck my earphones in and sat up to do my daily meditation and let my husband rest another 20 minutes. 75 minutes later and we were out the door with our packs on our way to Northfield Train Station.

We took the train from here to Birmingham New St and then walked to Birmingham Moor Street to catch the train to Kidderminster at 11:10am.

Once we arrived into Kidderminster we walked westward to the small village of Bewdley to arrive at Hopley’s Caravan and Camping Family grounds.

It cost us only £8 each for our one man hiking tent pitches. We were shown which areas we could pick to place our tents on their map. It was a very large space and we picked an area just on the other side of a little pond in which we had to cross a little wooden bridge to get to.

We recently bought our 1 man hiking tents. They only weigh 1.4 kg, inner and outer sheet, hemmed, compact and waterproof for only £19.99 in ALDI.  We are extremely impressed with them. In fact I am more impressed with this than my Snugpak Lonosphere which was damaged and the outer sheet never touched the ground so got very windy inside. This ALDI tent not only touched the ground but was flush with the ground.  11251001_1666705740227078_3187664999759999975_n

I got my other equipment into my tent. With me I took my medium sized Thermarest NeoAir XLite inflatable mattress. This is a life saver in colder weather. Weighs next to nothing easy to erect and repack and feels suuuuper warm under your body. It pushes cold air back into the ground, while circulating warm body heat back to the body. The temperature dropped to 4 or 5oC over night but I still felt the warmth from the mattress.
My sleeping bag was the OMM Mountain Raid 1.0. I want to love this bag I really do but it’s not enough on its own in this country lol. The quality and weight is absolutely exceptional though and with my long john’s, trackies bottoms, 2 tshirts, fleece jacket and standard sleeping bag liner I was just about warm enough in 5oC. It really is a one season summer (our one week hot summer) type of bag.
Sneaks I wore my Salomon Speedcross 3s. Excellent shoes for grip and nice light weight. I feel like these are too structured and supportive for my type of landing though. I will be trying to use a HOKA trail sneak soon instead for extra cushioning and to help my over supination.
My bag was the WAA Ultra Pack 20L. I didn’t bring the front pouch. This is just enough size for my packed items and a kilogram of dates. Love this bag. Only long distances though (especially if not running) I may opt for a 45 L bag instead, so I can pack more food.
Clothing was just 2 cotton tshirts, fleece jacket and £10 trackie bottoms. I messed up with the trackies recently when I went to try the Pennine Way National Trail. Ideally I would like to take waterproof trousers, I checked what the odds were of rain this time though the day we left and it was only 2% so I took a gamble, as we were only going to be walking one day and was right. My jacket is the Marmot Essence Waterproof Jacket. Can never complain with this. I use it for everything nearly these days. It keeps me dry when shopping, walking, hiking and running. Sweats vanishes from it very easily too and it’s so breathable. I would recommend anyone to have one of these jackets!
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We then went to the local farm shop and bought some fresh fruit and vegetables for dinner and breakfast the next morning.

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How do you get to this table? ha

After we had been to the shop we decided take a walk over to Wyre Forest which was right on the edge of Hopley’s Camping ground. I have been here before with a friend night running when testing out my new Petzl headtorch around September 2014 I think. It was so nice to see it in the daylight though.
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Once we got back to the camp site we grilled our veges and then settled down for the night at about 9:30pm.
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We woke up at 5pm and packed up our items. Today we would be walking most of the 35 mile North Worcestershire Way Trail.
We headed back down to Bewdley Village and stopped off at a TESCO mini to get some nakd bars and crisps. Then we headed for the start of the Trail on the River Severn.
Navigation was pretty straight forward. The way marks where frequent ans easy to spot. There were a few turning points which where not way marked though. We had no trouble here as I was following the course I had uploaded as a GPX file to my Garmin Fenix 2. The way marks where really just a nice reassurance that we were going the right way haha.
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For the first few miles the trail passed alongside the River Severn curving around it. It was nice to see the river, the birds, ducks, swans etc and also the other bridges that had collapsed or crossed over the Severn.
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We were even privileged enough for a beautiful horse to come to us and allow us to stroke her and talk to her for a while.
I love this picture of Philip stroking her. She was so gentle and well natured. CIMG0117

We then crossed over a bridge with love locks attached to it and then headed back on ourselves on the other side of the river, along a beautifully overgrown green alleyway.
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e continued through a forested area which was absolutely beautiful. The trail had started to get a little more hilly by this point though the views helped us to ignore this fact and keep soldiering on. I have always loved Ivy growing around large tree trunks. Especially when both are in full flourish. Absolutely beautiful.
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By about 9am it had started to warm up a bit and Philip decided to take my VEGAN hat off. His hair was a right mess. After a while we finally came to our next mileage sign…. as you can see here I had tidied his hair up a bit by then lol.
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Here’s a picture of a creepy building we passed. It was in the middle of nowhere in the woods. There was a steel door on it with a little window at the top. I was going to shine my torch through it but decided I wasn’t that interested (a little scared), so didn’t bother.
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Nature really knows how to provide. This tree has been super generous in it’s growth to decide to create the perfect seat for hikers such as ourseleves 🙂 Thank you.

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From here it was miles of miles of trails inbetween farmers fields. I hadn’t walked on trails like this before they were very sandy and I felt like we were walking down to the beach.

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We came across more of those type trails along with walking through the middle of farmers crops too.
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Philip spotted a really big caterpillar. He asked me to take this pic with his foot in it so you could see the size of him clearly enough.
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We were now at about mile 25. Philips achilles had been hurting him for the last 6 miles and the bottom of my feet were hurting by now. I always have sore feet though so didn’t care much. Here’s a snap of us when we were starting to have enough.
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I didn’t take any more pictures after this point. We just kept walking and I counted my steps to zone out a bit and forget that my feet where hurting. Once we passed through Clent Hills we walked to a pub called Swallows Nest. This was mile 28 now and we had decided that we would order a taxi from here to take us home. Had we had an extra day we would have camped half way somewhere and completed the distance though we had obligations the following morning back home as well.

When you look on Google Maps at this area and most of West Midlands, with the satellite option it looks like there’s no open green for the serious adventurer but it seems there is. All those ancient trails all over the place taking in such beautiful scenery. We hardly ever had to pass any roads and through the bulk of the first 20 miles + we only saw half a dozen people! We saw many more animals than we did people.

For us runners I’d say you could get in a few good runs on this route. There’s a few hills but also plenty of flatter sections to enjoy too. I’d opt for trail sneaks as the vast majority of it is all on trails. Very little is on roads at all. If you want it a bit easier too I’d start near Birmingham first and end in Bewdley.We missed out Lickey Hills near our home due to the taxi. So you have that and then Clent Hills (the hilly bit at the start) to consider. If you did these at the start of your run then you could enjoy the journey with the rest of it not being so bad.
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The next day I was expecting my feet to be really sore and my legs to be stiff, but I have woken up feeling fine. Refreshed and ready for action again some time soon.

I was happy to find when at the start of the trail it said Worcestershire Way, with arrows going in two directions. It was here that I found out you can take the trail all the way from Malvern Hills to Wythall just outside Birmingham. With a total distance of 66 miles. This gave me great interest in returning to do the whole thing over a few days.

I was also delighted to see that the Monarchs Way crosses through. This is England’s longest inland trail and runs 615 miles. it kinda circles parts of West Midlands and then heads towards Bristol, then to the south coast not far from  Dorchester, it then goes back inland and across past Salisbury and Winchester and then ends in Brighton.

Lots to think about for the future and I’m hoping I manage to get in another adventure or two before winter creeps up on us.

Cheers for reading
-ScottyRunner