It’s been a while since I’ve written anything personally, during this mini break from writing I’ve competed at the Montane Cheviot Goat, and the Montane Spine Challenger. This blog is about the Cheviot Goat (thoughts on the Spine Challenger to follow) and may be a little bit more of a race report than normal, but if you are planning to do either of these epic events hopefully you can take something from my experience which will help your own race.
This strenuous race is a 55-mile Ultra marathon, covering the Cheviot Hills in Northumberland. The race is held in December and starts at 6am, so your starting point will be in complete darkness, and unless you’re super speedy you are going to finish in darkness too. The race is named after the hardy feral Cheviot Goat which is the only animal left on the Northumberland hills during winter.
For me this race was part of a bigger plan to compete at the Spine Challenger in January, and whilst the Goat was certainly not a training run, neither was it my A race. Unexpectedly, leading up to the event my training had been going to plan, I had been fit and healthy for several months and could really feel that my strength was building. If you’ve read my other blogs you will know this was unexpected because I usually always have a niggle, or an underlying health issue.
My own coach Kim Cavill had me doing a decent amount of volume leading up to the Goat in preparation for the longer Spine which was only a month away. Because of her training I was feeling pretty confident going into The Goat. With my house not far from the Cheviots, I particularly enjoy taking advantage of the bigger Northumberland hills when I can.
As a competitive fellow by nature I always look at the course records/winning times and work out if they are achievable to me, and if not where I think I will finish in the race. This is one of the reasons I enjoy running and coaching: if you have committed to your training, looked after yourself in terms of nutrition and hydration, and remained injury free you should be able to roughly predict your finishing time through past record times. I was aiming to be racing at the front of the pack, by that I mean top 10% (with an under 15 hr worst case scenario). Having said this, it’s important to have a backup plan, maybe two, as despite being well prepared, fit and strong, you could easily pick up an injury on the day or encounter some horrid weather.
The race itself went according to plan. After breakfast at Ingram Cafe and the race briefing it was a swift start and jostle to find position but by halfway I was well up on my predicted times and feeling pretty good (although I did run out of water). A very quick bowl of soup and a bread roll, after topping up my bottles and I was facing the trail once again.
In the second half of the race I faced a couple of contrasting issues – tarmac and bogs.
Tarmac- I hate the stuff! Barrowburn Farm (which is the halfway point) is followed by 4-5 miles of tarmac until you turn off the road and head steeply up to the border ridge. The road section is gently uphill and really very runnable. But the soup in my belly and the hatred of the black stuff on the road before me had me power walking this section. This was the low point in the race for me and the only section of the route I had not recced. It seemed to take me an eternity to get back onto the trails, and Mark Caldwell and Mark Richardson got away from me here, but not to worry – still a marathon to go and plenty of time to claim those positions back.
The route is a slog from the border ridge, where it joins the Pennine Way paving stones and boggy sections. I was climbing for what seemed like days to Windy Gyle then up to the highest point at the Cheviot summit. Hooray! All down hill from here! Not quite. A swift descent down from Cheviot to the foot of Comb Fell.
Here I faced the second issue – bogs! Daylight was over so I tackled Comb Fell in the pitch dark, now for those of you that don’t know the Cheviots well, on a good day they are pretty boggy, but leading up to the race the weather had been unusually mild and wet. Comb Fell is the boggiest of realms in the Cheviots, and just my luck, on this particular day it was horrific. I think it took me around 2 hours to get from the foot of Comb fell, over it and up to Hedgehope Hill summit, which had me averaging 1mph.
With places waist deep in bog, it’s a strange place to be in in the dark: on a flat-topped hill in the pitch black, encountering bogs every few minutes, feeling desolate and exposed to the elements. At only 5pm it seemed like the dead of night, I was blinded by the darkness, and the fog was reflecting my headtorch light straight back to me. It had crossed my mind that if I got stuck in a bog, I’d have quite a wait until help arrived and could be dead before they ever found me (maybe a tad dramatic, but it feels so isolated up there).
With Hedgehope completed and under my belt, I was on to Dunmoor hill. Here I was searching for some friendly faces and a cup of tea as Team Marchant athlete Peter and clubmate Jenny were manning the checkpoint at the top. I got the friendly faces, one out of two isn’t bad! Once I had passed them it really was all a descent, but challenging still, navigationally. I had been passed on the top of Dunmoor hill by a couple of chaps who I’m sure had used stealth to catch me – headtorches off- but I told myself that I’d catch up to them on the descent (as I’m usually good going down steep technical land).
Sure enough I caught the lads who had previously passed me, who appeared to be having difficulty navigating, but myself being undeniably competitive, I didn’t stop to help them. Instead I scampered straight past and headed down the steep stuff to the farmers’ fields at the bottom. They attempted to follow me down, but after a quick battery change in my headtorch I decided to put my foot down for the last couple of miles. I was chased to the road section back towards Ingram, but once I was on the flat, I left them all behind. It turns out that I had overtaken Mark Richardson on the same section, who had also got lost. I had gained 3 places in the last 2 miles. Happy days. I crossed the finish line in 12.47 and in 12th place, with lots of big names behind me. Not a bad day at the office.
I needed all of my kit on the day, my Montane Spine jacket was worn from approx. 30 miles into the race, my heavyweight waterproof trousers were also called for heading up to Windy Gyle. As well as this I had a couple of base layers and mid layer on. Whilst I was ok, I can’t say I was toasty. The Cheviots at this time of year can be tricky and like all mountains the weather changes very quickly, so it’s best to come prepared for all forms of weather.
I tried my Spine Challenger shoe/sock combination out and despite the testing conditions they worked perfectly. Saucony Koa ST trail shoes with Arctic Dry Xtreme Ice waterproof socks worked a treat.
During the race, I was drinking a combination of Tailwind and Precision Hydration, both containing electrolytes and the Tailwind has some calories in it. I don’t rely on only Tailwind, I eat flapjacks and when possible, normal food such as wraps, cheese and whatever is available from the race organisers. This is something that I have only recently mastered- for the past 6 months or so whilst training and racing, I feel like I’ve never had a sugar bonk or low point in a race as a result of nutrition and I put that down to using Tailwind as a base of steady calories.
Like I said earlier, running is normally a pretty predictable sport. But if I were to do the race again, I would definitely commit to racing harder earlier on, and is one of the only times I would say banking time is a good plan. You aren’t only racing the other athletes, but also the daylight. If I had managed to get over Comb Fell in day time, I think I could have comfortably saved 1 hour off my finishing time.
The event was excellent. The two main organisers, Montane and Cold Brew Events, have got it down to a tee. Mountain rescue and all of the marshalls were brilliant, faultless in fact. In December 2019 I will be racing on warmer trails in Spain but this is an event I would highly recommend.
I’ve often suffered from self-doubt and crises of confidence about running. I took it up just before my 30th birthday when I picked up a friend’s copy of Run Away From Fat and thought: “I could do this”. Before that I’d pretty much been a couch potato, never sporty as a child and definitely a bookworm rather than an athlete. After I completed the 4-month plan in the book, I joined a running club and haven’t looked back.
Except I have. Although I’ve completed numerous half marathons, marathons and ultramarathons, I have still been tied to the image of myself before running. You’ve still done all of those races, so what’s the problem? You may ask. Well, on one hand there’s no problem. My love of instructions and following rules has meant I’ve stuck faithfully to my training plans, committing totally to them. This should stand me in good stead for finishing strongly and making the most of my efforts during a race.
However, the fact I don’t see myself as a “real runner” means it’s all too easy to take an extended walk break in a race, to have an hour faffing about in a checkpoint, to give up on the idea of running or racing the whole way. After all, everyone will be impressed that someone like me could even cover the distance, even if I stroll in for the last 20 miles, won’t they? – I’m not actually an athlete so nobody’s even expecting me to push myself all the way to the finish.
I’ve been working with my coach Kim Cavill for over a year now and can feel that my strength and fitness has come on in leaps and bounds. I know I’m physically strong and although I might not be a race winner anytime soon, I’m capable of a lot more than I ever was. However, my mental attitude has been holding me back from seeing how well I can actually do – without pushing myself, I’ll never know.
With all that in mind, I was excited when I heard that my friend Caroline Dennison had qualified as a hypnotherapist and set up her business New Venture Hypnotherapy. By a process of therapeutic techniques involving deep relaxation and positive reinforcement, Caroline helps people to overcome problems like stress, anxiety, phobias, stopping smoking, but also helping with confidence and goals. I went to see Caroline to chat about whether she could work with me to change the way I think.
I knew Caroline was a scientist by training so I had no worries about entering a spooky unknown realm of hypnotism. If she had bought into it I was confident it was a real thing and not some woo weirdness. I’d also seen the benefits one of my university housemates had received when another of our friends, studying psychology, had done some work to hypnotise her to help her feel calmer about exams. So I was eager to find out more and receptive to the benefits it could bring.
My first meeting with Caroline started with an informal chat and a fair bit of catching up as we hadn’t seen each other in a while, but we soon got down to business. We talked about what I wanted to get out of the session. Ultimately I wanted to change my mindset from one where I’d give in and start walking when the going got tough, to one where I believed in myself and would be able to focus and keep pushing. Caroline asked me lots of questions and we talked in some detail about how I felt and what I wanted to achieve. We ended the session with a taster of what the deep relaxation would feel like, with Caroline counting me down from 10 to 1 with calming and relaxing words, so I’d know what to expect.
A week later we met again. In the meantime Caroline had taken our conversation and written a script, from which she would read during the session. She counted me back into deep relaxation and began to talk. It’s worth pointing out that during hypnosis you remain fully conscious and in control. As Caroline described it to me, all hypnosis is self-hypnosis and there is no power that can make you go into the deeply relaxed/hypnotic state if it’s not what you want. I never felt that I was in a trance or what I would previously have imagined as “hypnotised”. What I did feel was very relaxed and able to concentrate fully on Caroline’s words. As she talked, asking me to visualise positive images and providing positive words about my upcoming race, a feeling of euphoria came over me. For the first time I felt as if I knew I could do it, that I was just as worthy as anyone else to be taking part.
I really tried to focus on Caroline’s words and as the session progressed I took in the positive messages. Before I knew it Caroline was counting me back out of deep relaxation and we were chatting about how the session had gone. She’d recorded the session on my smartphone for me to listen to in my own time which was really great.
We met again the following week when the session was based around a slightly different script, addressing some specific challenges I thought I might face in the upcoming race. One session would have been sufficient I am sure but it was nice to catch up with Caroline a second time as well as having the chance to reinforce the work we had done in our first meeting.
In the week leading up to the race I felt focused and positive, looking forward to race day. As usual I scoured the internet in my spare time, looking for race reports written by previous runners to give me that last bit of advice that would help me on the day. Two blogs I found particularly useful were James Campbell’s – he recommended attacking the many, many, steps on the Hardmoors 60 route with the words “Bring it on!” – and John Kynaston’s – he repeated a positive mantra to keep him going. Both of these provided inspiration to me on the day. A couple of nights before the race I listened to the recording Caroline had made, to keep my thoughts on track.
On race day I woke feeling ready for the challenge. Mark took me to Guisborough for registration at the Sea Cadets hall. I was a bit overwhelmed by all the commotion and pre-race excitement but a quick chat to Hardmoorian and Durham University psychology researcher Paul Burgum really helped. I’d agreed to take part in his ultrarunning psychology survey which involved completing a questionnaire about mood at the start and finish of the race, and at a couple of checkpoints during the day. The pre-race questionnaire made me realise that my feelings were not worry, doubt or anxiety but just normal raceday excitement and I felt ready to start the race on a positive note.
I won’t bore you with a blow-by-blow account of the race but I will say that I have never felt so positive during a race. Ultra races are by nature very long affairs, and so there are inevitably periods when things aren’t going great. Even with a great crew like I always have (Mark!), this can sometimes get on top of you and in the past I’ve found it hard to stay positive when, for instance, my knees have started grumbling, the sun has started baking down, or I’ve started feeling sick. Actually, scratch that – many times in the past I have totally failed to stay positive and in some of those situations I have (at best) ground out the race in a miserable whinge-powered fog or (at worst) quit the race entirely.
This time round, all of those things happened, but I found it easy to focus on the positives – that I knew I was strong enough to keep running and that the bad times would pass. I believed I could do it! I would definitely put the improvement in mental attitude down to the work I did with Caroline. The very fact of taking part in the hypnosis sessions set me on a path in the fortnight before my race of looking for positives and thinking in advance of encouraging things I could say to myself to get through.
Obviously the self-belief I gained was only possible because of the months of work I put in with the support of my running coach. Coaching has made me much more accountable – I don’t skive sessions and I give training my best effort because I know I’ve got to report to my coach! As she said though, it seems as if hypnosis has provided the final piece in the puzzle. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who needs that extra bit of help.
I have somewhat of a love/hate relationship with running, as I’m sure do many others. Love it for the challenge, and for getting me out exploring the trails whether they are minutes from the doorstep or further afield, for the physical fitness and mental health benefits, as a solo activity or to share with long-suffering partner Peter, and not forgetting the race bling of course.
Hate it? Yes, because it’s hard!!! And because I’m rubbish at it. And because I’m so slow and I can’t run up hills for toffee. And because when I enter a race what seems like the whole world goes past me within 30 seconds of the start. And because I’m a 48-year-old cyclist with fluctuating weight and too old to be taking up running and will never be any good. Blah di blah, moaning, whinging, self-indulgent, negative humbug.
Here I will briefly confess to a lifelong battle with depression, anxiety and pernicious perfectionism that will likely never be won. For me it is a persistent struggle to avoid slithering down another snake and to reject those kinds of negative thoughts and feelings, not just in running but in everything I do. Constant reminders to think rationally, that you cannot control life and events, just your reaction to them. On a testing day I would wonder why on earth I bothered running if it made me feel that bad.
Time for a rethink. Maybe I am not as good a runner or as fast as I want to be, but neither am I as bad as I think I am. Struggle on hills? Run up a few more of them. Want to run faster? Mix in some intervals or head down to the club sessions. Passed by everyone in a race? So what kind of a race is it…have you actually done any speed training? If it’s a parkrun or a 10k and you’re training for a marathon you will be lacking speed. Want to make significant improvements? Join a running club or get yourself a coach.
Most importantly just try to actually enjoy your runs…so put one foot in front of the other, look around and enjoy the sunshine or rain or snow, count the number of wild bunnies or deer or foxes you’ve spotted, laugh when you’ve been nettled or got your foot trapped in the mud. Enter a race if you feel like it. Or don’t. Just never think you’re not good enough or you can’t do it because I am telling you now as many people have been telling me…Yes, We Can (apologies to Barack Obama).
Eighteen months ago I ran my first 10k (road, flat as a pancake back in Cheshire). Two weeks ago, I ran the Scott Snowdonia Trail Marathon. In a little under three months I will be attempting my first Ultra. Eighteen months ago, none would have been on my wish list or deemed possible.
Today, blisters healing and five toenails lighter, I am just back from the first run of my new training plan. I’ve filled in my training log like the dutiful student I am, although Mark will think I’ve been cloned by aliens as my entry is entirely devoid of moans and whinges. I would like to say it will remain that way for the next three months to my second big event under his tutelage, but alas the probability of that is extremely low!
Today was a good day, but that will, no doubt, not always be the case. It will require commitment and hard work and a little bit of self-belief that I have not always found easy to come by. Yet I can say with absolute confidence that I will be on that start line, trotting around for 38 miles and grabbing my finisher’s medal several hours later. I may not be first, or second, or third, or even 250th, but if I can get round without too many blisters and still be standing at the end that will do me… until the next challenge.
So here is the story of how I took up running and eventually began to believe in myself with a little help from Peter, DVRC and #teammarchant.
Beginnings: two wheels good, two legs??
My first running event was a 5k as part of a sprint distance triathlon in my home town of Nantwich (Cheshire) back in 2013. Here I will also confess to being a cyclist, and when riding past people out for a run I would laugh and wonder why on earth anyone would struggle along on two legs when two wheels were available. 2013 was somewhat of an annus mirabilis for me on two wheels as I spent the year clocking up thousands of miles doing one cycling related challenge after another (including Land’s End to John O’Groats) and, in doing so, raising a few thousand pounds for my local RSPCA branch. In short, I was awesome.
However, at this point I had zero running miles in my legs. I had not run anywhere since school some 30 years ago. Even this merely involved being sent out to trot round the fields on rainy days when the teacher didn’t want to get wet. As a conscientious student I did at least attempt to run, although most of the other girls seemed to take this as an opportunity for a giggly walk discussing the latest Smash Hits sensation. I entered the triathlon regardless: as usual for me the harder the challenge the more the satisfaction on completion. Just 5k then I could hang up my running shoes and get back to the bike.
So, how to run? After my usual thorough research, I discovered and downloaded the NHS Couch to 5k podcast. I would recommend this to anyone starting to run from scratch: if you commit to following it over the nine weeks you will progress from walk/run intervals to running non-stop for 30 minutes.
Eleven weeks to the triathlon it was on with the new running shoes, headphones in and time to press play on the podcast. Ready to launch into action I was immediately told by Laura the evil podcast mistress to walk to the beat of the appropriately paced music for five minutes. Easy peasy. At Laura’s prompt I was then to run for 60 seconds. Ready, steady…oh my god this is an absolute nightmare when can I stop I can’t breathe I think I’m having a heart attack. 60 miserable seconds later it was time to walk for 90 seconds. Great! Until the next 60 second run. A full 20 minutes later I had no idea how I was going to survive three runs a week for the next nine weeks. Why could I cycle 100 miles up every hill in the country and be fresh as a daisy, but 60 seconds on two legs was so hard?? Sod this, I’m sticking to two wheels.
Sometimes I have zero mental fortitude in the face of adversity and will crumble like a sand castle at malfunctioning broadband, or if my freesat box recorded a whole series of The Bridge apart from episode three (no way I could miss an episode and watch the others out of sequence – don’t be ridiculous). So here I learnt a valuable lesson about completing physical challenges. It seems that once I have decided to do it, and then I’ve actually paid my money and entered it, and then I’ve told everyone I’m going to do it, and even better if I’m raising money for a charity I don’t want to let down…. well some surprising mental resilience kicks in and I will always finish it no matter the obstacle. Not so for the rest of life’s obstacles, but I’m working on it.
So, I gritted my teeth and kept on running. A minor issue was the nine-week course becoming ten when I had to miss a week due to a mountain bike crash during my South Downs Way challenge. Just as well I had built in a two-week contingency (meticulous planning as ever). And so, I diligently completed every session and eventually ran for a whole 30 minutes without stopping.
The triathlon itself came and went: a fast bike leg made up for shortcomings on the swim and run legs and in the end it was one of the easiest challenges I’ve ever done but also one of the most satisfying. This was an early realisation that the medal is earned from the commitment to taking on the challenge and during the training period. The race is almost incidental – #trainhardraceeasy as Coach Mark likes to say.
So, the annus mirabilis continued with one fabulous ride after another and running shoes put in storage. Cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats remains one of the best experiences of my life, despite being in excruciating pain every afternoon and having to do glute stretches at random places along the route due to my dodgy left buttock. And still nothing fazed me. Alas, what goes up must eventually come down as Isaac Newton would say. Cue a debilitating depressive episode lasting on and off for two years. After my fabulous year at peak fitness I proceeded to put on weight, lose cycling form, fall out of love with it and every pedal stroke became a grind. I would be in tears on some rides as I remembered my previous ability and current crapness. I became unable to function and sunk into a pattern of being either off work, or returning to work, until I finally had enough and grabbed the chance of redundancy. I am usually hopeless at decision-making, but this was the quickest and best decision I have ever made.
A New Challenge
Skip to 2016, finally a return to some sort of mental health and time for a new challenge. I have concluded that it is good for me to have a physical goal requiring a training process as it brings focus to a brain that is unable to cope with abstraction. Apart from keeping me fit of course. There is a balance to be found though to avoid repetition of the post-euphoric slump of 2013.
My partner Peter is a much better runner than I am: he has thousands of miles in his legs from countless fell races, mountain marathons, Everest Marathons and even a Bob Graham. He had not raced or run properly for several years due to a few niggles and injuries but was keen for me to start so we could head out together as an alternative to cycling. Sometimes it’s easier to just slip your trainers on and head out of the door instead of the usual rigmarole of bike ride preparation.
So, we started to go for a few jogs round the block. I was still down in Nantwich: a lovely place to live, but fairly hopeless for running variation. No hills, no bridleways and minimal linked footpaths so for a run from the doorstep it was either the flat road or the flat canal. Eventually the 30-minute runs stretched to 60, and during the summer I first had the idea of trying a half marathon, with a full marathon the following year. Both were flat, road races. I managed both of them although I would not say my training was particularly effective. I roughly followed a 12-week schedule from a magazine, ignoring any run involving intervals/fartlek/reps as I couldn’t be bothered and incrementally increasing the tedious long weekend runs until the 20-mile mark.
Meantime I had moved with Peter and my two pet bunnies up to the North-East. For him it was a home-coming after 25 years in Carlisle. For me I was certainly a long way from Kansas!
I have dwelt on running beginnings as I cannot emphasise enough how hard it was for me to get my cycling legs to trot for 30 minutes. It is a reminder to myself of how far I have come and that I am capable of far more than I think. I thought I would never be able to run 5k – but I did it. Next I thought I would never be able to run 10k – but I did it. Next I thought I would never be able to run a half marathon – but I did it. Next I thought could I actually run a marathon, perhaps just a flat road one? Yes, why not. Next I thought could I run an off-road marathon with almost 6,000 feet of climbing including an ascent of the highest mountain in Wales? Yes, of course I could, yet not so long ago the prospect of me attempting any of them was absurd.
As my runs lengthened I began to head off-road. Back in Nantwich this meant a drive to Peckforton and the splendid Sandstone Trail. After my big move I was able to explore fresh running routes in the North East with multi-terrain trails from the door. Avoiding the roads is thankfully easily done here, but not so avoiding the hills which are everywhere the eye can see, particularly as our house is at the top of a rather large one. Thankfully I see this as a positive for both running and cycling and is an area I hope to significantly improve on. Let’s face it, I need to! So, I decided to stick to trails, ditched the road shoes and signed up for the Snowdonia Trail Marathon: a ridiculous challenge but one I hoped would be achievable with seven months to play with.
To make the improvements I considered necessary I realised that joining a running club could prove beneficial. I had survived solo to this point but felt my running was stagnating. Social anxiety led to an avoidance of any group scenario, and it took lots of dithering and refusals before I eventually contacted Derwent Valley (DVRC). I managed to attend a few sessions, but because I am lucky enough to be able to run in the day I found that more often than not I could not be bothered to wait all day before heading out at 7pm. The winter therefore became a missed opportunity for speed, endurance or hill sessions. Instead Peter and I pottered around either cycling or knocking out easy 10k to 10-mile trail runs a few times a week.
Miles in Your Legs
With the usual marathon training period approaching I spotted Mark’s post about coaching club members. More hesitation and indecision and I missed the first intake, but thankfully a spot became available and I was welcomed to #teammarchant. Obviously, I cannot now say how I would have got on without my coaching, but to my mind it has suited me perfectly. Instead of vaguely following, or rather ignoring, a generic plan I had my own, tailored schedule. I do love a good spreadsheet, and welcomed the discipline of knowing exactly what to do every day.
So, runs of different lengths, climbing and effort, drills, or strength and conditioning exercises, and not forgetting the all-important rest day. No decisions required, apart from which direction to run in. Although to be fair, sometimes Mark helped me with that too. I was also required to complete the training log following each activity for Mark to read and feedback on. This I did assiduously, feeling a responsibility towards Mark for the time and effort he had freely donated. The log should be completed honestly, there is no point lying about whether or not you have completed a session or how you felt during it as it helps no one.
Mark will also be flexible if you are struggling, whether it be for time or form. Thinking back on my log entries I feel some sympathy for Mark – the incessant moaning about how useless my legs were, what was the point of the speed work when I was running a marathon and so on (see paragraph one!). I believe his most often used phrase was ‘stop being so hard on yourself’.
Eventually I began to believe that I finally had enough miles in my legs. In the last ten weeks of my training I ran 300 miles with 36,000 feet of climbing. Unlike the road marathon they were not just junk miles, but miles with a purpose and some science behind them. There were highs (my Cross Fell training run remains a favourite) and lows (having a tantrum because my race pack was annoying me was particularly ludicrous) as with anyone’s training but I made it to the start line. This is more than some could say given the amount of Facebook posts selling entries in the weeks leading up to the event. I managed to avoid major injury, with just my usual glute and hamstring niggles requiring additional warm ups and stretching routines. As it generally takes me an hour to get my running legs going anyway I was not particularly concerned, rather thankful that my goal was a marathon and not to break any 10k race records.
And so, the big day dawned. I was quite nervous during the last week leading up to it as by this point I was tapering and actually yearning for the previous heavy training load. I just wanted to get on with it. My race report is below so here I will just say that it was a good day. I made a conscious effort to enjoy the fabulous Snowdonia scenery and to just keep plodding along to the finish. Job done! I will never be a super athlete challenging for podiums but can still have demanding goals, as this marathon certainly was.
What next? Well I’m currently back on two wheels looking forward to a well-deserved holiday. Although as this will involve cycling all over the Alps and Mont Ventoux it may not be everyone’s idea of a relaxing break! Poor Mark has had to come up with an experimental training plan to enable me to reclaim my cycling legs for a few weeks and yet still be ready to run the Jedburgh Three Peaks Ultra in October. It seemed like a good idea when I entered, to not waste my marathon legs and tick the Ultra box rather than start from scratch next year. Oh well, here we go again.
Race Report – Snowdonia Trail Marathon 2018 – Carole Jackson
For anyone silly enough to fancy a go, this will either put you off or send you rushing to enter.
Race: Scott Snowdonia Trail Marathon 2018
Race Date: 15/07/2018
Statistics: 27.3 miles, 5,800 ft (? watch could be wrong)
Almost a game of two halves! First 15 miles went as well as could be expected, then hit some very difficult terrain and tough Snowdon climb. Descent and finish fine apart from blister issues.
Initial 3.5-mile climb was ok, no blasting off far too fast just stuck to steady pace. As usual passed by lots of people and climbing is still area for improvement but was nowhere near last!
Next bit was possibly my favourite: flew down the descent to Rhyd Ddu (6 miles) passing loads. Mix of bumpy grassy moorland, some bog, some rocky at top. Only issue was the stile bottleneck part way down: big queue with long wait and of course everyone I’d passed caught up! Apparently, the farmer won’t allow any temporary structures over the wall. Water station here and had to go to toilet.
Mix of terrain then undulating on forest tracks through to Beddgelert (11 miles). Another water station and trip to the public toilets. Also had some refreshing bits of orange. At this point I was feeling good, sticking to a steady pace and time wise still way up. Had settled into a position where you start to see the same people around you, apart from slipping back with the toilet breaks!
On to next water station at 15-mile point, and yet another toilet trip. This section was along easy tracks skirting side of reservoirs but I don’t think I was running as well now. Slowed down and wasn’t happy with fuelling intake. It was another hot day and I’d had a steady intake of gels, Clif Shot Bloks, water and High 5 electrolyte tab drink and the bits of orange at Beddgelert. Did not want to eat any ‘proper’ food. Didn’t feel low on energy, just feeling a bit yucky. Apart from that I was still having a good day.
Now it became slower than expected a lot earlier than expected with some difficult terrain and the climb up to Pen-y-Pass at 18.8-mile cut-off point. Alas this was far steeper than I thought with lots of clambering over rocks. Everyone was walking and it seemed to take forever to get to Pen-y-Pass. At this point I’d lost over an hour off my earlier projected time to get to cut-off.
Onwards and upwards to the summit! It was 22 miles at the water station just off the top of the Pyg Track and by now I was realising that those 3 miles or so were going to take forever and be an absolute bastard. I managed to run a few bits but found it impossible to even get a power walk on: not because my legs were too tired but because of massive bits of rock and boulders most of way up. I was having to use hands to clamber up and over and with my short legs it was a nightmare! Took 1hr 38 so excruciatingly slow. This is not actually a moan by the way: everyone else around me was exactly the same and I think I actually passed more people than came by me. Some people’s muscles were popping and cramping. Lots of walkers on the track shouting encouragement which was nice. I had never been up the Pyg Track before and perhaps I’m exaggerating for dramatic effect or misremembering, who knows. Having been on the Rhyd Ddu path up, the Rangers Path down previously and now Llanberis Path down I reckon I’d have been able to move a lot quicker on any of those.
And finally, the descent and five miles to finish. Fine running down although did not go as fast as I wanted because of blisters. Felt a couple of painful rips on way up so obviously going down not ideal, especially at steeper top bit. Still managed to overtake quite a few. There was a final mile through some woods and round the back of fields and I just slowly trotted to finish. I presume the route went that way to avoid the centre of Llanberis (busy with tourists) but it did mean a total distance of 27.3 miles instead of 26.2.
Overall, I think I’ve got to be happy with that. The miles up Snowdon really slowed me down. I guess the Snowdon tag on makes it quite different to normal trail races and without that I’d have been fine ha ha. Targets were to finish without being wrecked, and avoid blisters and excessive toilet stops. I managed one out of three at least. Plenty of people didn’t finish or took a lot longer than I did and so not bad for a 48-year-old hobbit with cycling legs.
Race vest – not too annoying thankfully. During training wearing the vest became a bête noire that resulted in several tantrums. It just did not seem to fit properly over my rather large chest and took an age to find an equilibrium of being too slack but letting me breathe, or too tight but minimal movement and therefore chafing. The perils of womanhood!
Shoes/Blisters – alas major blistering which caused some discomfort on the Snowdon descent. Tried Blistershield powder, Sportshield on end of toes, Hilly twinskin socks and every other remedy you can think of but am now not convinced the Salomon Speedcross is the shoe for me. Already sized up but they are quite narrow fitting. Now trying the Inov-8 Trail Talon 290.
Post-race – physically fine when finished but struggled to eat a selection of my usual post-run food. Think all the gels and drinks were just too much for my system and ended up being sick a few times on the way home. I knew that would happen when I couldn’t get the appropriate recovery fuel in!! Know all about fuelling from cycling but running puts more pressure on digestive systems I guess. Was fine later, but would like to be able to eat ‘normal’ food during a race rather than relying on sickly substitutes.
So less than 24 hrs after a DNF whilst I am still watching the other athletes’ trackers and FB updates I thought I’d start to put down a few words about my training, the lead up to the race, a little bit about the event but more relevant at this moment, how it feels after. It’s a bit weird writing a blog, for me it’s a way of rationalising what has happened over the last few months by means of an internal argument…. should I, could I, What if etc.
This weekend I attempted my biggest racing distance to date, the 214 mile GB Ultras Race Across Scotland. I didn’t complete it, could I have done things differently on the day? Maybe, would it have made a difference? Maybe.
The months prior to the event
Training was going pretty well, I had set backs like most people involved in this sport but nothing too dramatic….. how an insect bite can change everything. About 3 months prior to the start date I was bitten by an infected tick on the back of my knee, nothing too exciting there I suppose millions of people are bitten by parasites each year so nothing to worry about. Wrong, it turns out: there are 3,000 cases of Lyme disease recorded in the whole of the UK each year, I was one of the lucky ones who had been bitten by a tick carrying the disease…. Hurrah!
I won’t bore you with the details but Lyme disease can be rather unpleasant and has a variety of symptoms all of which I could do without whilst my training was reaching the peak…. Fast forward to a few blood tests later and some industrial strength antibiotics and I seem to be on the mend, or am I? and back to some gentle training… Yeeha!
After a couple of long back to back training weekends on the race route I feel totally exhausted with a sore right nipple and wondering if I am doing too much too soon. Am I just generally tired? Is this the Lyme disease hangover? Is it down to the fact that we are having the greatest summer heatwave that I have ever known? Who knows – either way the results were the same and another week off from training was all I could do to try and re-charge myself.
Training run on the race route
My right nipple continued to be sore for the coming weeks, and I just assumed that it was down to a combination of a new T shirt or my race vest moving around too much or the heatwave, it turns out it was neither of those things and on further investigation I’d developed a hard lump in my right pec just to the side of my nipple….. Brilliant. Another trip to the doctors, then via the NHS 2 week oncology referral scheme on to a hospital appointment for some blood tests and scans. The fast track process is amazing and one we are lucky to have in this country, but wouldn’t you know the appointment to get my results at the breast clinic was scheduled for Friday the 17th , the day I was due to make the 5-hour journey to Portpatrick ready for race day on Saturday the 18th.
Whilst I was worried about the possible outcomes, statistics suggest that men are highly unlikely to get breast cancer (less than 400 cases each year from 33 million men in the UK) so there was very little chance that I could be so unfortunate to get Lyme disease (3,000 cases in 66 million people in the UK), AND male breast cancer. I was always taught to hope for the best but prepare for the worst and so mentally this is what I was doing.
Thankfully the results were all positive and I don’t have cancer which is an amazing relief. It is not my intention to gain sympathy or to use this as justification for not completing the race. Neither of these issues had anything to do with what happened on the day, I don’t have cancer and I didn’t fail because I was bitten by a tick!
However, I do feel like I was robbed of the excitement in leading up to the race, I didn’t have the dreams or nightmares that big events bring, there was no constant kit checking or visualization of the race and what would be happening and when. To me I was going through the motions, tapering, eating, hydrating and packing kit etc and even trying to seem excited about the event for my crew when in reality I wasn’t and on the morning of the day I was travelling to the event it was possible that someone would tell me I wasn’t going to be able to do it.
This surprisingly is going to be fairly short, I’m going to save you from all the bits about who I ran with and what a great guy or girl they are. It goes without saying that generally Ultra runners are a decent friendly bunch of people, this bunch were no different. I ran with a few different people at different stages of the race but spent most of the race alone with my own thoughts.
We set off at 6am on Saturday 18th ; up to 17 miles everything was good, I felt physically well, and was running at a pace which I know I can maintain all day so was happy enough. I can’t quite put my finger on what went wrong… I just didn’t feel great- I had a sore stomach which is nothing new to me when racing but I felt like my batteries had just gone flat, I was eating and drinking but not feeling very well at all. The self-doubts started to creep in, had I been kidding myself on, me run 214 miles? Was I really over Lyme disease? Was I suddenly just feeling all of the stress of the last couple of weeks?
In truth I don’t know other than to say I had already resigned myself to quitting at Glentrool at mile 45 and even called my wife and Crew Boss Hazel to tell her so. My crew had been briefed already about when it was acceptable for me to quit… in short there were no circumstances that this was acceptable and I was promptly told that. Hazel must have called my coach Kim Cavill who called me to give me a talking to.
I arrived at Glentrool and the cheers of the supporters and my crew were a big lift. I was tended to by my Team Marchant mates Paul and Peter, and Hazel who directed proceedings with military precision. Hazel accompanied me to the toilets to inspect some rather tender areas of chaffing which turned out to be far more serious than I thought.
I was turfed back out of the checkpoint after about 30 minutes and have to say I was feeling pretty chirpy. Seeing the new Team Marchant car signs on my way out of the checkpoint gave me an extra spring in my step too.
From that checkpoint we had pre-arranged places for my crew to meet me so things in theory should have been much easier. Things went like we had planned and I was running well and felt much better from having had some proper food. The chaffing injuries were now raw burn like wounds on my groin, back and outside of my quads which was starting to hurt a lot.
Despite this, I was still feeling pretty upbeat about things, I was gaining places in the race and passing other competitors as opposed to them passing me but I decided to amend my race strategy and sleep at 77 miles instead of 92 until first light then go again on Sunday morning once I had had a chance to air my wounds and rest.
When I arrived at the campervan it was clear that the wounds were a lot more serious than anticipated and this is when I appreciated most when having your partner, wife or relevant other leading your crew becomes so important. The application of Bepanthen and Sudocrem to places I’d like to call private areas is maybe a duty which Paul and Peter would have refused but Hazel had her mobile operating theatre all ready to go and this race would continue if Hazel had something to do with it. The plan was to smother me in cream, sleep in the nude to allow some air to get to the horrid bits and try some different pants the following day and see what happens.
Saturday night and Sunday morning
I woke up at 5am on Sunday 19th and got dressed in my new pants, leggings and clean kit and set off at 5.45 with the intention being cover roughly the same distance as the day before then stop and rest again. I was moving well, by that I mean I was making “relentless forward progress”, I wouldn’t win any awards for my technical running ability at this point but moving forwards is all that counts on these races so I was happy enough. I was a little bit stiff but my legs still felt strong which is a testament to my own great coach Kim Cavill…. Coaches need Coaches by the way! but my nether regions had me wincing with every step, again I called ahead to Hazel to say I thought my race was over as I couldn’t bear the pain and rather than accepting defeat she made the 50 mile round trip to Tesco to purchase the entire medical department to be ready for surgical procedure number 2.
Despite the best efforts of the crew and head surgeon Hazel my race couldn’t be saved. My clothes were cut off as they were stuck to my wounds and in removing them we just exposed more raw flesh, the location of the worst wounds meant that applying dressings was impossible. Lucky for crew member Doctor Jenny that her shift hadn’t started yet and so she was able to escape medical duties (although provided sterling moral support to the rest of the crew via mobile phone). It was suggested by Peter that we simply wrap my injured parts in cling film and send me back out…… it was decided that the custodial sentence which would surely follow was not worth it and so I retired from the race.
Am I sad about it.. yes, but could I have done anything to prepare for this… No. I ran in the same kit I have done so many times before without issues.
As I write this my fellow competitors are still racing, lots have DNF’d some have a couple of days still to go and the winners are almost done. How does that make me feel? Most people who have been training for an event for a long time- the “A” race of the year, when it’s over be that a win, finish or DNF there is a void left. It’s often referred to as post-race blues and a couple of the athletes that I coach have experienced it, I on the other hand don’t feel that way. I am probably feeling the same way as lots of other people who have “failed” at something.
What could I have done differently? Hazel and I had a conversation today whilst walking the dogs in which I was asking her about whether I was really justified in stopping, she tells me that if she thought it were possible she would have patched me up and sent me out again and that’s good enough for me.
24 hrs or so have passed since I pulled out of the race and now whilst pottering around I don’t feel so bad, I feel like I could continue now but of course I do, I’ve had a day to recover, to apply copious amounts of nappy cream, eat proper food, have a bath, sleep in a bed etc. At that moment in the race when you decide to quit, or your crew pull you from the event it’s how you feel right then, not 24 hrs later. I didn’t achieve my plan on the day but was it something that I could really control?
Ultra-racing is a delicate sport, to have a great race lots of small things have to fall into place all at the right time, most people at some time in a long distance races are going to have times when things feel pretty rubbish but how It’s dealt with is what counts, the psychology behind what keeps us going when things get really tough, when everything in your body wants you to stop but you just keep going… that’s the difference.
Does this mean that I am not as tough as some of my fellow competitors? Maybe it does or maybe just more of the little things have gone right on the day for them, maybe they have trained better than me, they are maybe more experienced or simply just better runners than me- who knows. I am confident to say they haven’t tried harder than me though- I would never say I’d be beaten on effort. Either way they are still running whilst I am typing this so something for them has gone better than for me.
This is my first race over this distance and it’s been a great experience. A race which potentially takes 100 hrs to complete means that the competitors will have different strategies to one another and it’s quite difficult to get your head round. I went to sleep in around 20th place but woke up in 35th ish, and retired in the top 30 but with lots of the racers in front of me yet to rest. You really don’t know where you are in the race until a lot closer to the finish I suppose. The winners of races of this nature are not about who the fastest runner is, it’s the athlete who can go for the longest with the least amount of sleep, someone who has the mental toughness to keep going when others do not.
I’ve always been a great believer in self-belief. Believe you can and you will, self-doubting is accepting that you can be beaten, right? I’m not just saying have self-belief, I’m saying believe in the process, your training, coach, hydration, race strategy and don’t worry about what others have done, you can’t control that so there’s little point in concerning yourself with it. In truth you never fail – you either win or you learn, and both are positive outcomes.
I’ve finished my race with my self-belief intact, I believed in the process and had faith in my coach and crew. Sadly for me this time it wasn’t to be, the things which went wrong were beyond my control so I guess I’m as happy with a DNF as I’m ever likely to be. As a very wise friend of mine says, all it means is that I haven’t done it – yet!
It’s a tough one, ordinarily when things don’t go to plan there’s something you can put your finger on – if you go off too fast for example. In this case there’s not much I could do differently in terms of preparation or race strategy. There’s always something to be learned though, and for me on this occasion the lessons are as follows:
1. Find a better shorts/pants combo.
2.Have a more comprehensive first aid kit available so that your crew don’t have to buy things on the go.
3. This is the most important one of all! Always have a loved one in your crew, your friends may not be prepared to apply medicine to places which don’t see daylight!
The growth mindset and reflections on the Chevy Chase
by teammarchant athlete Gillian Belcher
“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
30 years ago Dr Carol Dweck coined the term “growth mindset” to describe beliefs people have based around learning and intelligence but often confused with personality.
“Fixed mindset” is all to do with our character, intelligence and creative ability being static.
A growth mindset thrives on challenge and sees failure as a way of stretching our existing abilities.
As a teacher this is something we are doing a lot in school at the moment – how can we get our students to be smarter and understand their efforts make them stronger and in turn put in extra effort and time to achieve more – creating an environment in which our students can safely ‘fail’ and feel secure in doing so in order to springboard to the next level because they have asked questions, learnt and challenged themselves.
These mindsets can manifest from an early age and is something I’m very conscious of instilling in my students and my own little girl; the power of yet – “I can’t do it yet” these simple words have a big impact.
Dweck writes “For twenty years, my research has shown that the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life. It can determine whether you become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish the things you value.”
There’s a whole host of neuroscience research out there on plasticity of the brain, how we can increase neural growth using questions, sleep and good nutrition. So as a school we have set out to apply interventions to improve mindset from fixed to growth.
There are a variety of different studies out there that show a different types of praise can encourage a fixed mindset – instead we must praise hard work and effort to cultivate growth mindset. When we do this our students will take on challenges, learn from them and therefore increase their chances of achievement.
Dweck goes on to say:
“When you enter a mindset, you enter a new world. In one world — the world of fixed traits — success is about proving you’re smart or talented. Validating yourself. In the other — the world of changing qualities — it’s about stretching yourself to learn something new. Developing yourself.
In one world, failure is about having a setback. Getting a bad grade. Losing a tournament. Getting fired. Getting rejected. It means you’re not smart or talented. In the other world, failure is about not growing. Not reaching for the things you value. It means you’re not fulfilling your potential.”
So what does growth mindset look like in the real world? My race report from the Chevy Chase fell race may help to explain.
On Saturday, 7th July 2018, I stood on the start line of the Chevy Chase, I set off and felt strong. The start is essentially straight up a hill and off you go and I felt good! We passed through Wooler Common and up the farmers field.
Something started to feel wrong and boom that was it I was sick. 3km in to a 20mile race and I was wondering what was going on! Felt better for it and there’s a short downhill section so knew I could get a bit of time back there.
4km sick again. I could see the check point ahead and knew I just had time to make it so pushed on and arrived only a few minutes behind schedule and I knew I had a buffer.
7km sick again and a phonecall to the husband for some wise words of advice. Would it be game over at Cheviot Knee – it very nearly was! At this point I knew I wouldn’t be getting round 20 miles within the cut offs and immediately set myself a new target of Hedgehope.
There were several points that could have gone differently and in my mind I must remember how I was on the day not how I think I was now the race is over. When I started my training I said to myself I must have no regrets, this was to be the furthest and biggest race I had ever done and I left the race on Saturday at Hedgehope knowing exactly that.
I had plenty of time to come to terms with it on my mammoth climb to the top of Hedgehope and the ultimate question ‘are you ready to retire from the race’. Walking off Hedgehope to bump in to a friend and fellow teammarchant runner was a welcome surprise along with the lift back to the start.
At present I won’t be taking on the Chevy next year, I don’t feel I have unfinished business there – I don’t, circumstance didn’t allow on the day. It wasn’t my day and that’s ok because I have been given a safety net in which I can ‘fail’. One where I am confident and comfortable with my decisions, one where I have been praised for my effort on route and on the day.
Everyone experiences failure at some stage in their life. But can you fail better? This doesn’t mean failing more often. It means learning as much as possible from the failure experience.
I have challenged myself, failed and learned and now I am off to find a new challenge!
Work/life/running – it’s an age-old question me and my running buddies ask each other as we watch the ‘fast runners’ with admiration- how do they have time to train enough to be fast? In reality, they have the same time to run as us.
I started running about 6 years ago. Just a plodder, I always have been! I lived in Asia then and had a demanding career and an active social life. How could I fit running in? Somehow, I did it twice a week, just trotting out around our estate or on the treadmill and signing up for the odd local 5 and 10kms. I didn’t take training seriously. I rarely pushed myself. I was sweating therefore I was working was my thought process.
I signed up for my first half marathon and was wayyyy slower than I imagined. I beat myself up over it but continued to run. We returned to the UK. I was still slow. I blamed acclimatisation, I was used to running in the heat!
I did the Great North Run, I was still slow. Why is everyone faster than me? I’m training!
Believe me when I say I had every excuse going. Plodding around on my own I was not getting any faster and none of my friends run either so couldn’t turn to them. So, I joined a running club – the best thing I ever did for my running. I finally got a bit faster: I set myself a target of 5km in under 30mins and eventually I got there.
Then beautiful little Beatrice arrived. I was now juggling work, home and now a child. How on earth would I ever manage to fit running in? I am of course not the first to face this challenge but I was adamant that I was not giving it up. So, I stuck with club night and park run at the weekend and anything more than twice was a bonus.
When I started training with Mark in our initial consultation he asked me how many times could I run a week. Three. That’s as much as I could do and would be my absolute maximum. Even then I was wondering how could I fit them all in with so much to juggle. I really didn’t know, two already seemed a struggle! Although now I only work part time I have Bea on my days off so it’s not like I could run then.
Mark sent me my training plan and it was so achievable but the sessions challenged me at the same time. So: three runs it was plus two strength and conditioning sessions each week. It worked because it was carefully thought out, it took effort in to consideration and I was no longer just running around pretending I knew what I was doing! The plan was all about running at a certain effort level instead of pace – I can tell you it works a treat and made a huge difference to me.
Thanks to the programme I was set I was now making every minute of every session count – consistency and effort were key. My target at this point was a sub 1hr 10km and I managed to achieve it twice over with a couple of other PBs thrown in there for good measure.
I started my Chevy training (20 mile fell race) in January 2018. Having never run further than a slow half Marathon and never ran anywhere other than a road 20 miles was a daunting task. Initially Mark added a bit on to parkrun, run to it or get there early to run before. That seemed challenging at the time and required the logistics that the army would be proud of.
As the months passed so did the miles. My plan steadily moved on from park run to runs in our local woods as I needed trail and incline. My longest run would be in June, 2.5 hours one day and 3 hours the next. I have met people at some unearthly hours and have run in horrific weather but I just needed to get out there and get it done – no excuses!
Things had to give at times though. Work would take over some weeks and I missed out on route recces because of kids’ parties and christenings. It’s not all been plain sailing or easy, don’t get me wrong! Life continues, it has to!
As the weekend sessions got longer the closer to race weekend we got I turned to evening running as otherwise I’d lose the day with the family. Always a logistical nightmare, I’d set off at tea time and miss bed time. I was determined I would never be beaten on effort and would always try my best, so I had to make what little time I had count!
So I ask the question again. How do you fit it all in? I am still very much a back of the pack runner in my head but I’m ok with that as I’m achieving my running goals. Having Mark as my coach has made me a more confident runner as I’ve learnt many things on my road/trail to going faster and running longer.
Priorities – is your running important to you? If so make it happen! I still don’t have the answer but if it matters then do it! I guess in part my mindset has changed as well as the types of sessions I’m doing. Surround yourself with likeminded people and for me this is the biggie – they will kick you when you need it, they hug you when you need it, they will see you stick on the right path. Whether that’s the support via your friends, running buddies/club or you choose to join teammarchant they will be your support crew no matter whether you run 5km or an ultra!
The rest of teammarchant and Mark in particular have been invaluable to me with this. Mark has commented on every single training session I have done, giving me confidence and security in knowing what I was doing is right and that I can do it no matter how tough it gets. He’s not just my running coach but my sports psychologist too including giving me race day plans I’d never even thought of. I honestly could not be about to embark on Chevy Chase without him and his incredible coaching!
Be organised – At home we even have a separate calendar that we put our different training on to so we know who is doing what when. Marks spreadsheet makes everything clear and I was able to plan with Mark what I could do when and any dates I couldn’t do in advance. Proper planning and preparation prevent poor performance!
Be flexible – I have to be with a toddler! Some nights it would be 9pm before we wrestled her to sleep. Strength and conditioning went out the window those nights! Luckily Mark is a very understanding person and again gave me words of support when I felt guilty for missing sessions. On the flip side I was away with work in Coventry, the flattest place on the planet, and was meant to do a hill session so I improvised and hit the treadmill I wouldn’t recommend it but it was a good compromise!
Don’t compare yourself to others – one famous person once said “comparison is the thief of joy”. Different people are at different part of their training to you….as Mark once told me! And he’s so right (don’t tell him) but don’t let them beat you on effort (Mark also told me this!). At times I still amaze myself looking back to January and what I’ve achieved since then! I never knew I’d be able to do it but I’m so glad I can!
Set yourself a goal – I am training for the Chevy Chase fell race, it will be the furthest I have ever ran and my first ever fell race. I would never have signed up to this without knowing Mark would coach me through it. Whether I make the cut offs on race day or not are now not important as I am a stronger and fitter runner ready to take on the challenge!
Welcome to the blog. Here I’ll be sharing race reports and posts on all things related to running and training.
You’ll also see posts from some of the athletes who are already training with me. I’m working with a diverse group of amazing people, who all have their own perspectives on running and own areas of interest that they may be persuaded to share with you.
I hope you’ll find the blog interesting! Watch this space for updates.
Welcome to the page! I’ll be adding race reports, blog posts and other stuff soon but in the meantime here are details of the services I offer.
Athletes who choose this option sign up for a minimum of three months at £50 per month.
Initial consultation – we’ll discuss your running goals, your training and fitness history, your other commitments, any relevant medical conditions.
Bespoke training plan – following our consultation I’ll create a tailored plan for you, which will include all of your running sessions as well as a strength and conditioning programme which will complement your running.
Regular scheduled contact – Every 4 weeks I’ll provide you with the details of your new training block and we’ll speak on the phone, Skype or Facetime to make sure you understand what’s coming up, and to discuss any issues from the last block.
Training log – coaching is a two-way street: I need your input too. You’ll be completing your training log either on computer or on your smartphone so I can review it daily.
Informal contact – there’s no need to save up questions or issues for the 4- weekly review. You can contact me by messenger, text or email at any time (within reason!) and I’ll respond as soon as I can. There’s also a Team Marchant messenger group where you can ask questions and share information with your fellow athletes.
Option 2 – training plan for a specific event
This option is based on a 12-week training programme at a cost of £100.
Initial consultation – we’ll discuss your running goals, your training and fitness history, your other commitments, any relevant medical conditions.
Bespoke training plan – following our consultation I’ll create a tailored plan for you, which will include all of your running sessions as well as a strength and conditioning programme which will complement your running.
Contact / monitoring – This option is for training plan only so there is no ongoing monitoring or review cycle. Of course if anything is unclear, you can contact me by messenger, text or email and I’ll respond as soon as I can. During your plan period you will have access to the Team Marchant messenger group where you can ask questions and share information with your fellow athletes.
Throughout the year there’ll be the chance to join your fellow athletes to take part in organised strength & conditioning sessions and running days out. Athletes choosing either option 1 or 2 would be invited to take part.