Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Day 25 review - Just like when we beat Arsenal away!

WARNING!! WARNING!! This post contains lashings of self praise and congratulation and a tenuous comparison to a football match played over 6 years ago.

The day got off to a great start with a fine bowl of porridge and a round of toast. I was still almost full from the previous night's pasta meal but seemed to polish the lot off nonetheless. Katy, Jack and I were staying in Redditch at the parents of one of my colleagues;Val and Harry Lewis (pictured). Their hospitality was second to none and has not been bettered on this tour. Apologies to Malcolm Macdonald, landlord of the Kings Arms in Melrose. You have been displaced at the top of the good hospitality league.

It was a good 75 minute drive back to the start point at Hales and by the time I started running it was 11:30. This is one of the disadvantages of being a day and a half behind the planned schedule. I'm not quite in the place that I should be and the accommodation is a little further away as a result.

I started off slowly in hot and humid weather. That slow pace didn't last long and by mile 6 I was running at an unusually fast 10 minute mile pace. Unusual, that is, for someone who'd just ran 560 miles in the last 25 days. My progress was also helped by some brilliant navigation and directions from Katy. This was one of the trickiest parts of the route to date, in a labyrinth of twisting minor roads. Katy made sure that the support car was at every turn before driving on to the next one. I couldn't go wrong.

I went past the usual 8/9 mile banana stop point as I didn't want to stop while in such good form. Instead, I waited until the 11 mile point and then stopped for bananas and a drink.

I was so relieved to be having a good day after the injury ravaged last 2 weeks and I think I had one too many bananas. The next 4 miles were really slow as a result. Once the bananas were out of my system, I started picking up the speed again. Mile 16 was just over 10 minutes. Mile 17 was just over 11 minutes. And after I'd wolfed down an energy gel on mile 17 the next 2 miles were just over 9 minutes each. In fact, at one point on mile 18, I looked down at my watch and it was telling me that I was running at an 07:30 minute mile pace. So this is what running after losing a couple of stone is like! I'd almost forgotten! And it was 23 degrees!

Once I got to mile 20, I decided to take my foot off the gas and save some energy for the coming days. This plan didn't last long though as I finished the run with 11, 9 and 10 minute miles.

I couldn't work out where all that apparent extra energy came from today? I'd burned 4000 calories according to my watch and hadn't really replaced that many. Obviously the food I'd had at Harry and Val's had helped a lot. I haven't eaten that much for days.

I promised you lot a tenuous link with football so here goes. I can only compare today's performance to the time Newcastle beat Arsenal at Highbury around Christmas 2001. That win was the first for nearly 30 games in London and today's good run was as equally overdue. That win put us top of the league over Christmas and while I knew we wouldn't win the league it was good to be in that position for as long as it lasted.

After today's run, I feel like I'm top of the league again. I also know that it may not last that long but I'm damned sure I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts. In fact, enjoy it I did tonight. Katy and Jack can't complain that I don't know how to treat them to a slap up meal. Just around the corner from our £15 Travelodge room is a Little Chef. Why would you take a look at the size of the burger I had tonight. It's an "Olympic Burger" so it must be good for you. Ian "The Coach" Glasgow is going to have a fit when he sees that picture. He's been on my case all week about my lack of food intake. Well Ian, I'd like to dedicate this burger, chips and the 5 onion rings that it came with, to you mate. I didn't leave a crumb! On the plus side, it might make me run a bit slower tomorrow.

Now the serious bit! Don't worry it doesn't last long! The numerous mental and physical battles I've had to win during the last 14 days have been tough and for most folk this would have seen the end of a very difficult event. Even if I do say so myself. Running 20 odd miles a day, while in severe pain, has made me seriously question myself and my capabilities. Believe you me, the low points have been very low. Forget all about the mountains in Scotland, crossing the Pennines was the section that almost brought me to my knees. The only reason I'm on the fringe of the 600 mile point now, in my opinion, is because I've spent numerous weekends training in the very place that almost crippled me. Oh I do love the Pennines!

The mental battle has been overcome with the support of many individuals. I'm in constant contact with colleagues John Brettell, Jimmy Bell and Ian "The Coach" Glasgow. They all make sure that my feet are kept firmly on the ground. John and Jimmy and the motivators while Ian tries to make sure that I eat and do the right things (he failed tonight mind after that burger!). Then there are the many texts and emails I receive from my Aunty Joyce and her family. It's also been good to see friends and colleagues at surprise points on the route. Add into the mix the continued support from the lads at NUFC.COM and you can already start to see that I've got some first class backing.

The icing that goes on top of the mental cake comes in the shape of the people I've never actually met. There are hundreds of them! All of those people that have made a pledge or have bothered to send me an email can safely say that they have played an important part in ensuring that I'm still intact on day 25. I'm looking forward to all of this continued support during the final 11/12 days of the run.

That's the serious bit over. I owe a big thank you to today's sponsors for nudging the total ever nearer the £15,000 mark. Let's hope that in the next few days that I can exceed that total. I'm in regular contact with Anne Oliver at St Benedict's Hospice and I know that she is very grateful for all of your pledges.

While on the subject of landmarks, tomorrow should see me pass the 600 mile point on the run. I've also just realised that after 10 miles of the run today, I had only 300 miles left to do. There are the makings of a small glimmer of light in a very long dark tunnel.

Anyway, that's enough from me today on this most victorious of days. While writing this post Jack has nicked my space in bed so I'm on the settee (AGAIN!!!). This isn't how top athletes, such as myself, are supposed to sleep! I bet Linford, Paula or Brendan never slept on the settee, the night before a run!

This is Mark Allison signing off from yet another £15 Travelodge room. May tomorrow bring more high temperatures and no more sleeping on the settee!

Day 25 - Speed in the sun, 25 miles done.

Expect a full review later for this one. I don't care how tired I am, I'm staying up to write about today's superb 25 mile effort. It's all set up nicely to break the 600 mile mark tomorrow.

Day 25 - Going for it.

So much for slowing down! I've been flying along the A41 and at one point got up to a 7.5 minute mile pace. I'm under no illusions that today's form will last but the hotter it gets the quicker I want to run. And it's 23 degrees now by the way. 18.5 done so far.

Day 25 - 11 quick miles done.

It's roasting hot today but I'm loving it. I've managed to put in a few 10 minute miles and even got up to an 8 minute mile pace just before the 11 mile banana stop. This together with Katy's superb navigation skills has made for rapid progress. I don't want to speak too soon but I feel as though my body is becoming very much used to running these long distances day after day. Although the pain in my hamstring has gone I daren't take the strapping off my leg. I think it would be wise to slow things down a bit now.

Day 25 - A reet scorcher of a day.

It's another hot day down here in the Midlands. Thanks to being substantially fed and watered by Harry and Val Lewis in Redditch, I feel on good form today and another 25 miles is a possibility. The start today is a point just south east of Market Drayton.

Today's injury is a small hole on the inside of my left foot where a blister once was. It's not causing any discomfort yet thankfully. I'll be keeping an eye on it though.

Monday, 30 July 2007

Day 24 - 25.1 miles done in the sun.

It's been bright sunshine all day today and it has really brought out the best in me. I felt I had a few more miles left to give but it's time to make our way to our digs.

Day 24 - 20 miles done, 5 left.

I'm putting in a good strong finish to the day. I've had no pain at all today. Thanks to the new sponsors. That 15k target is looking likely to be broken any day now.

Day 24 - 9 miles done.

I'm now having a jacket potato stop after running 9 pain free miles. It's so flat in this part of the country. There is not a hill in sight.

Day 24 - 2 miles ahead of schedule?

By my rough calculations I'm still 2 miles ahead of the average daily schedule and about 34 behind the planned schedule. I'll be double checking the figures tonight. The scheduled start time today is 10:30. There is quite a bit of cloud cover today and bits of blue sky here and there. I'll be trying to get as far past Market Drayton as I can get today.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Day 23 - Out of time.

Due to today's late start I only managed 21 miles. I had to finish at 19:30 in order to get to the B&B in Telford on time and before they stopped serving food for the bairn. It's getting a little bit complicated now due to the fact that I'm 1.5 days behind schedule. There's more travelling to be done as a result. This won't be a problem at the end of next week and beyond as the locations of the B&B's are more conveniently located. I must have known when I booked them that I'd be lagging behind a bit by week 4.

There's no time for a review tonight as I'll be asleep in 10 minutes in readiness for tomorrow's early start.

Day 23 - It's a miracle!

No! Not that Luque scored again. I told you he would earlier. It's the fact that I'm running pain free again. I'm enjoying it while it lasts.

Day 23 - Nearly at the target!

Thanks to the new sponsors today for getting the fund over the £14,500 mark. Brilliant is all I can say. I will thank everyone by email once I have finished this crazy run. Thanks also to NUFC.COM for their continued support. I'll be missing my 1st home game in 4 years today but I'm sure I'll be getting a few texts along the way. Luque to get a few more perhaps?

Day 23 - A late start.

I managed to get underway at 12:50 in glorious sunshine. My hamstring is as pain free as it has been for 4 days. My right shin is still very sore though. Who cares! The sun is out and there is a path as far as the eye can see. Good times!

Day 23 - A transitional day.

This is one of those days where base camp number whoknowswhat is packed up and a lot of travelling has to be done (by the support crew, Katy and Jack, mainly). All of this is going to lead to a 12:30 start approx and therefore a late finish. Today's journey starts at Newton-le-Willows and sees me pass through Warrington and hopefully Northwich. Another 25 miles is a must on this very sunny day in the North West of England.

Day 22 review - A painful end to a long day.

The day got off to a bad start when I lost my temper with a woman complaining to the B&B staff about her car being clamped. I was trying to have my breakfast only a few metres away from her very loud, irritating noisy voice. Much to Ian "The Coach" Glasgow's shock I told her that I was trying to have my breakfast in peace and asked (not very politely) if she wouldn't mind shutting up. She soon shut up and moments later I heard her mutter the words "Choke on" and "Breakfast" in the same sentence.

I set off from Preston just after 10:00 in glorious sunshine. The sun stayed with me right until the 20th mile. Ian was able to support me for the first 4 miles and after that I was to be on my own for the rest of the day. At that early stage I had no idea how I was going to get back to the B&B in Preston. Katy was not able to support me as her Dad had been in Hospital yesterday and she wanted to see that he was ok before setting off.

I found it difficult to find any speed in the heat and that combined with having to run on a grass verge made progress very slow in the early stages.

I eventually reached Ian at the 4 mile point and stuffed my pockets with bananas and energy bars while also carrying a large bottle of water. I thanked Ian for his assistance and he was on his way back to the north east as I made my way south on the A49.

All of a sudden I was running unsupported and feeling very vulnerable. All sorts of thoughts were going through my mind. I could just continue running until Katy reached me in the morning and I could grab an hours sleep here and there along the way. I soon came to my senses and sent a text to Burnley Keith and Dicko (another work colleague) asking for a lift back. Burnley Keith contacted me first and had no hesitation in answering the distress call. He was due to be in the area anyway watching Burnley play Leeds in a pre season friendly.

It was such a relief knowing that I had a lift back to the B&B and the rest of the journey was done in a much happier frame of mind.

The A49 had a path running alongside of it all the way so that made a nice change. I stopped for a jacket potato at a pub near the 11 mile point. I don't think the landlord took too kindly to a sweaty Geordie dressed in running gear being in his pub spoiling the ambiance. I was soon on my way again and that, as it turned out, was my last stop for the day.

I managed to get through Wigan incident free but at the 20 mile point I was faced with more pain. I lost concentration for a bit and ended up standing on a small stone. This normally wouldn't have been a problem but the shooting pain that was sent up my already battered right shin was really really bad. I was in agony but continued on as best as I could. I was going so slowly after this that a lady in a motorised wheelchair overtook me!

Burnley Keith picked me up at the 25.5 mile point in Newton-le-Willows and dropped me off at the B&B in Preston. What a relief to be back! It is very pleasing to have crossed the 500 mile point today as I continue to chalk the miles off.

Saturday, 28 July 2007

Day 22 - Another 25 done.

It's been another good day on the road and I've managed to chalk off another 25 miles. Burnley Keith turned up in his posh Jag to give me a lift back to the digs in Preston. Full review to follow later.

Day 22 - Still in there fighting for this title.

I've just passed the 500 mile point and with ONLY 368 miles left I'm still in with an outside chance of finishing this run on the 11th August despite having a rest day. I would love it, just love it if I could get to Lands End in 13.5 days time as planned.

Day 22 - Burnley Keith to the rescue.

Burnley Keith just so happens to be in the area watching his team play today and will be able to get me back to the digs in Preston. My Father in law is out of hospital today and Katy will be my roadside support again from tomorrow as planned. Thanks also to Steve Dickinson for the offer of a lift.

Day 22 - All alone!

I'm now making my way south without any support. All of a sudden I feel as exposed as Shay Given behind Newcastle's back four!

Friday, 27 July 2007

Day 21 review - Normal service resumed.

I managed to get an early start today at Caton which is about 3 miles to the north east of Lancaster. Due to Katy's Dad having an operation today Ian "The Coach" Glasgow stepped in as a last minute replacement for road side support.

Ian did a good job guiding me through the minor roads and eventually I arrived at a point just south of Lancaster. Ian then suggested that I take a turn that would take me north. 2 MILES NORTH MIND!!!! One quick lesson on how to read a map followed and I was back on the road south.

On the next road I noticed a passenger in a white van waving at me. Then the white van drove straight at me and I had to jump to the side to avoid being hit. I can't repeat what I said at the time. I was none too pleased though! I would have been a goner had the van hit me. That's about 5 times now on this tour!

At the 9.5 mile point Ian and I stopped for a bite to eat at a local pub. Halfway through the meal young Steven, the mackem challenger, turned up. He was going to run for a few miles with me but after he'd ate his gammon and chips, running was no longer an option for him.

We said goodbye to Steven and I was on my way again through to Garstang. Once there, Ian and I changed into the Batman and Robin outfits. It took a while to get them on as we were laughing so much. Not as much as the passing traffic though! The local police even stopped for a laugh! Ian and I set off as the Dynamic Duo and after a few miles Ian headed back to the car and I continued on for another 4 miles. It was great to see the smiling faces as people passed by. There was a young lass at a bus stop. She managed to keep a straight face until I ran past when I heard her burst out laughing.

I changed out of the Batman gear about 3 miles North of Preston. After a quick banana stop, Ian once again provided some good directions through Preston and I finished after 25.1 miles.

Tomorrow, I'm faced with a potential dilemma as Katy can't leave the North East to start her duties on the support team until she knows that her Dad is ok after his operation. If Katy is unable to travel then I'll be faced with supporting myself for the foreseeable future. I'm not sure how that is going to work but I'll just have to go for it. At least there are now plenty of shops from which to get bottles of water and things from. Getting back to the B&B each day shouldn't be that much of a problem as there are plenty of buses and trains in this part of the world (unlike the Highlands or the Pennines). There's never a dull moment on this tour!

Day 21 - 25.1 miles done.

I rounded off a very difficult week with the distance I so desparately needed to set me up for week 4. Full review to follow later.

Day 21 - Batman we have a problem!

Batman has drank lots of extra water due to being very hot in his outfit on this scorcher of a day. Batman has just realised there is no zip in his outfit. Holy weak bladder!

Day 21 - Holy camp support driver!

And here is one of the boy wonder - Ian Glasgow. Thanks to Burnley Keith for Ian's sponsorship.

Day 21 - Geordie sees Bat Signal.

I'm getting more beeps than an episode of the road runner. Thanks to www.myspanishrentals.co.uk for the sponsorship.

Day 21 - Mackem surprise.

At the first banana stop today I got a surprise when the defeated Mackem challenger, Steven Moore, turned up to give some support. When asked if he fancied a rematch he replied "Give over! I haven't recovered from the last defeat yet.". Pity! Good to see you though Steven.

Day 21 - 11 done,14 left.

It's slow going today but I'm getting there. A quick calculation has revealed that if I get to Preston today them It'll be a case of 24 miles a day until I arrive at Lands End on Sunday 12th August. It looks like I'll be missing the Bolton game but I'll get a few days to rest the hamstring before celebrating goals against Villa. The dream is still alive!

Day 21 - The Dynamic Duo.

Ian "The Coach" Glasgow is on support duty today and if is doing a great job guiding me through a tricky route to a point just south of Lancaster. Ian and I will be changing into Batman and Robin later today as part of a sponsorship deal with www.myspanishrentals.co.uk.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Day 20 - 4 - 1 will do nicely!

The hamstring was tested once more right at the end as James Milner scored a belter. Back to the serious stuff tomorrow as my quest to reach Lands End continues.

Day 20 - 3 nowt up at half time.

Every time I stand up and cheer a goal my hamstring pain gets worse. I'm not complaining though. Geremi has stood out for me and the service from Nobby has been top draw in the 1st half. This beats running from one end of the country to the other any day. Thanks to the new sponsors today. The fund is creeping nicely towards £15,000.

Day 20 - Drenched!

I'm on my way back to watch tonight's match and I'm totally soaked. Yes it's raining but there have been a few passing cars that have seen fit to drive at full pelt through adjacent puddles. I stopped just short of Lancaster with the required daily average mileage now at 25. Only 408 miles left!

Day 20 - Hoying it down but I don't care.

It looks like my day off has paid dividends as I'm almost running at full speed again. It's very wet here in Lancashire but it's not bothering me in the slightest.

Day 20 - On the road again.

Here we go again. I'll be trying to get as near to Lancaster as I can today.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Day 17 review - Thunder and lightning cuts the day short.

The sun was beating down at the start of day 17 in Middleton-in-teesdale. My mate, Mark Huck, was the latest to join the road side support crew and he would be the lucky one who would be fetching and carrying for me for the next 2 days.

I felt very tired after yesterday's effort on the Pennine Challenge route and ultimately found this day far more difficult than I had expected.

Today's route was one long climb for 10 miles then it sloped off after that.

The run got off to a disastrous start when I was, all of a sudden, surrounded by hundreds of flies. I was already uncomfortable because of the heat and this just made it 100 times worse.

I called Mark Huck back in order to get some insect repellent and I coated myself with the stuff at the 2 mile point. Unfortunately, I could feel that I'd already taken a load of bites by this point.

I was attacked by even more flies until the 6 mile point and I felt that the jungle strength insect repellent did very little to deter them. These were clearly County Durham's hardest flies and far superior than anything I'd been attacked by in Scotland. I even tried using an old branch at one point in an attempt to get rid of them.

All of this extra effort left me completely breathless and I'd done far more twisting and turning than my body would have comfortably liked.

I arrived at the 8 mile banana stop and could see some very dark clouds in the distance around the Kirkby Stephen area. I thought I could also hear thunder but wasn't sure if it was one of the nearby MOD shooting ranges.

I soon pressed on again and eventually arrived at the 1612ft summit which was the 2nd highest point on the run so far. It was at this point that I could see clearly the thunder and lightning in the valley ahead.

I was so tired by the time I got to Brough and I was quite pleased to see that the weather ahead hadn't changed. I agreed with Mark that it would be unsafe to continue.

While on our way to the Tranna Hill B&B in Newbiggin-on-Lune I couldn't believe how bad the weather actually was. There were numerous flash floods on the way and conditions were very dangerous indeed. The decision to stop was a wise one indeed.

Mark and I got some bait in a local pub; the Black Swan in Ravenstonedale. The neighbouring pub, the Kings Head, was on the local news later that night as it had been flooded.

All in all this had been an exhausting day considering I'd only managed 14 miles. At least I'd got over the major climbs on the Pennines over the last 2 days. These had been hills that I had rarely seen the likes of in Scotland. I'm now only 10 miles ahead of the daily average schedule. Any more slippage and I just might have to make use of the contingency day.

Day 19 - A good rest.

I'm enjoying the rest today but I'm looking forward to getting back on the road tomorrow. It'll be an early start as I'll be coming back to the North East after the run to watch Newcastle play Celtic (as well as stopping off at the club shop to get the new away kit). My son Jack is a lot better today and will be on roadside support duty with Katy for the next 9 days!

Thanks to the new sponsors today and the messages of encouragement. I simply can't fail with such superb backing!

Day 16 review - In the safety of the Peloton.

The Pennine Challenge run was due to start at 09:00 and the Northern Rock runners and I got underway just 10 minutes late after a few photos and a bit of a laugh and catch up.

It was good to see the one and only Jimmy Bell at the start. Regular readers will know that Jimmy has had to fight his own battle recently and is on the road to recovery following treatment for cancer. Jim turning up to support the team was, on its own, enough to give me a boost and I'm sure the other runners felt the same too. I had a further boost when I saw all the other runners including Ian "The Coach" Glasgow and John Brettell whom I'd been in daily contact with over the previous 15 days. I set off with Michael Dunn, Pete Maddison, Patrick Aynsley-Smythe, Jonathon Jobe, Colin Moore, Paul Jackson, John Mallon, Chris Cowan and, last but not least, Mike Lewis.

I had thought that everyone would run at their own pace (a lot faster than me) but it was obvious from the start that Paul Jackson, Chris Cowan and John Mallon were there to keep me company and ensure that I reached the finish line in one piece. It was akin to the members of a Tour de France cycle team ensuring that the leader in the pack stays safely in the peloton in order to keep the yellow jersey. This was quite appropriate as I was able to wear my new Oakley Lance Armstrong 'Livestrong' shades for the first time. They were a belated birthday present from Katy and Jack. All the gear and no idea! That's me!

We started the run at a pace that I'd not managed for a few days due to my painful shins. The pain killers had kicked in and the route seemed very level for a change. Although, this wasn't actually the case if you look at the elevation profile.

Jacko, Chopper, John and I had a good laugh on the route and this really took my mind off the pain I'd been in over the last few days and indeed would be in when the pain killers wore off.

We soon arrived at the first water stop on Waskerley Way after just 5 miles and we stopped for a few minutes to have a bit of a chat and a drink. Jimmy Bell and his wife Anne were there to wish us well.

The next water stop was at the 8 mile point. Again, we stopped for a drink and a chat with runner Mike Lewis's family who were doing a sterling job at water point 2. This was my kind of water stop with all kinds of goodies on offer. John Mallon took a particular liking to the fig rolls. Once again, Jimmy Bell was there to offer some encouragement. I told the ladies at the water stop that this had been by favourite water stop so far and we were soon on our way again.

We bumped into the first set of Pennine Challenge cyclists about half a mile down the road. Their challenge was to ride from Middleton to Rowley and then back again! Michelle and Mike Paul were helping Rob Caffrey to repair his 2nd puncture of the day. I later found out that Rob had 4 punctures in total over the course of the day and had to give up. A few conspiracy theorists reckoned that he had a packet of tacks in his back pocket. Of course, I refused to believe any of it. He does have a bit of a track record mind. On a recent walk on the Pennine Way he ended up having to get a taxi for 30 miles. That's how Rob got the nickname "Joe le Taxi". Anyway, that's the last we saw of Mike and Michelle until the finish line.

The decent into Stanhope down Crawleyside bank caused my shins a lot of pain. The pain killers had well and truly worn off! To make matters worse I had to try and get across Stanhope Ford where the water levels were very high. Thankfully, I made it across without falling in and it was good to see my mate Keith Parker and his family waiting at the 3rd water stop. Keith had been to the Carlisle/Newcastle match the day before and filled me in with the match details while I was taking on water and more much needed pain killers. There was chocolate at the 3rd water stop so I made a point of telling Gemma (the water stop person) that this had been my favourite stop so far. Gemma is the girlfriend of one of the other runners - none other than Ian "The Coach" Glasgow. Just as we were about to set off again, another Pennine Challenge cyclist, Jim Patterson, arrived. Jim started his journey near the A69 and his mission was to get to Middleton then back to the start point many miles later!

The next section is what I consider to be the business end of the run. There are 2 fierce uphill sections to overcome. The first is a 2 mile 550 ft climb starting with a 17% gradient. The second one is a 2.2 mile mile 700ft climb with a lesser gradient. I've ran up these climbs so many times in training that I no longer have any fear of them.

Still accompanied by John, Paul and Chris I asked them to take the lead at the foot of the first climb. I tried my best to stick with them and the climb was soon complete. Another descent into the next water station followed although not as painful this time.

I had a good feed at the 4th water station which was manned by my wife Katy and son Jack. As we set off again, Jimmy Bell joined the peloton for a few minutes and then I led the pack up the second major climb of the day. I started to feel really good and pushed on a bit with the others following close behind. I was very pleased with the pace I was setting and I think the others were a little surprised that I had it in me considering that this was mile 398 of the overall run.

Once at the next summit and 5th water station I stopped to take a photo and update the blog with news that I'd reached the 400 mile point on the run. How appropriate that the 400 mile point should also be the highest point on the entire 868 mile route. Yet another descent followed and my shins were starting to hurt again.

A few of the runners had gathered at the final water station. They had already finished though! Michael Dunn was there and he had finished the run with a lot of knee pain. So much pain, in fact, that he was unable to bend his knee and had to finish the run in a most parculiar style. His new slim, blond girlfriend was there and she whisked him off to give his injury some "medical" attention in an attempt to get rid of the stiffness (in his knee!!!!).

Mike Lewis joined the peloton for the final 3 miles and Chris, John, Paul and I reached the finish line in Middleton after 5 and a quarter hours of running. Just before we finished we passed Jim Patterson who was cycling back to the A69. Also, the other cyclists Michelle and Mike finished at about the same time as us.

There was a good gathering at the finish on the upper outskirts of Middleton and a most welcome round of applause was lapped up by all of us. After a couple of minutes I led all of the runners into the centre of Middleton and my official end point for the day.

What a day it had been! After thanking Jimmy Bell for his constant road side support during the day and a few more handshakes most of the team made their way to the nearest pub! Pictured in the pub are 2 of the peloton crew, John Mallon and Paul Jackson.

After about an hour in the pub, the final 2 cyclists, Hailey Hunt and Julie Rowles arrived. I got news later that Jim Patterson had finished too. So everyone had finished safely. And not only that, the estimate talked about in the pub was that the Pennine Challenge team had raised £3000 for St Benedict's Hospice as a result of their efforts today.

Everything went so smoothly today thanks to the efforts and organisation of John Brettell and Mike Lewis. Thanks must also go to Mandy Baker, the backup driver, and all of the personnel at the water stations.

Day 19 - A change of tactics.

I'm about to make a bold move today. I'm going to keep off the road for 1 day and give my hamstring (as well as my shins) some more ice and their first rest in 19 days and 443 miles. The hamstring feels much better already after 4 hours of ice last night but my shin pain is quite bad.

This decision has been made easier by the fact that Katy had to take my son Jack to hospital last night after he was complaining of a headache and sore throat. He has a viral infection, which will also benefit from a day's rest before we hit the road again.

There is now a possibility that I may have to use the contingency day at the end of the run as this rest day will put me roughly 12 miles behind on the required daily average schedule. That is what it is there for though.

Thanks for all the emails of support and thanks to the new sponsors for getting the fund a good way past £14,000.

Thanks also to Mark Huck who has been the support person for the last 2 days. You'll be able to read all about that when I update the blog with the last 3 days worth of reviews.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Day 18 - Ice n'easy does it.

My right leg has been packed with ice for the last 2 hours and it will remain so for at least another 2. It's bloomin cold tonight! Thankfully, the terrain is getting flatter by the day. I'm trying my best to add the reviews of the past few days to the site. Day 15 is now online.

Day 15 review - A tale of 5 hugs.

I had just 24 hours until I ran with 20 or so Northern Rock staff on the Pennine Challenge route. The immediate problem was that I was roughly 6 miles behind the planned schedule.

It is worth reminding my readers that I am constantly working to 2 schedules. The first is the PLANNED SCHEDULE. The daily mileage on this schedule fluctuates from 21.7 to 27.7 miles over the course of the entire run. This schedule has been necessary to ensure that I’m at the start of the Pennine Challenge route on time and also to ensure that I’m within a reasonable distance of each booked B&B or campsite.

The next schedule becomes the most important after tomorrow. That one is the DAILY AVERAGE SCHEDULE. This schedule is simply based on the overall mileage of 868 miles divided by the number of planned days on the run (36). This schedule dictates that I run 24.1 miles a day.

So although I was ahead on the daily average schedule this morning this was no consolation as I had to make up those 6 miles to get to the Pennine Challenge start. This wouldn’t be easy as the route just south of West Woodburn through to Corbridge then on to Rowley near Castleside was a constant stream of up and down hill terrain.

After 10 miles of running up and down hills with treacherous blind summits I was struggling to find any pace. I noticed another runner in the distance coming the other way. As he got closer I realised that it was none other than Patrick from work. He knew my route for today and had decided to join me for a few miles. Patrick set a slightly quicker pace than I had done previously and it didn’t seem too long at all before I was in Corbridge for the 13 mile banana stop. I said a quick goodbye to Patrick and he headed off back up the hill to where he’d parked his car. Such is Patrick’s fitness, this wouldn’t have been too much of a chore for him.

Katy was supporting me today and when I met her at the 13 mile banana stop I already felt tired. I took an hour out to get a sandwich and a coffee from a little cafe in Corbridge. After such a long rest I asked Katy to meet me at the end point some 14 miles away (or so I thought at the time!). I had my first hug of the day from Katy and she was on her way home. As this tour goes on I must admit I’m getting softer by the day!

I’d memorised the route from Corbridge to a point further up the A68. The very hilly route took me up and down some steep hills. My memory proved to quite poor as I took a wrong turn and after 3.5 miles I arrived at Riding Mill. AHHHH!!! This is only 2 miles from Corbridge on a flat road. What a nightmare. Due to my stupidity, I was now 7.5 miles behind the planned schedule and 13 miles from the end point. Moreover, I was 13 miles from the next banana stop! Or so I thought, because at that point one of my colleagues, Mike Paul and his missus Michelle passed by in the car. I’ve never met Michelle before but she gave me a lovely hug. I was at such a low ebb, I asked her for another one and she duly obliged. That was 3 hugs so far for the day. Well worth taking a wrong turn for! Mike aand Michelle also had a supply of bananas and I nabbed a couple for the remainder of the trip. After a few photos and another hug from Michelle I was on my way again up the A68 and all of the climbs it has to offer.

Time was getting on and the pace was getting slower and slower. At least, with it being so late, the traffic was very quiet on the A68. Eventually, I got to the 24 mile point at Carterway Heads after almost 7 hours of running. I ate the 2 bananas and had an energy gel before setting off again for the last 4.5 miles. These last few miles took an hour and a half to complete. I felt quite energetic, all things considering, but the pain in my shins had returned and this restricted my speed.

The final 2 miles were up a 500ft climb. This is not what you want when you’ve just ran 26.5 miles. I eventually reached Rowley Station near Castleside where Katy and Jack were waiting for me. Jack ran up to me and I got the 5th and best hug of the day as I carried him to the finish point for 20 metres. By the time I finished it was 21:10. I'd ran for a whole 8.25 hours!

Overall today, I’ve ran 2500 ft uphill and 2500 ft downhill. The most alarming statistic is that I’ve got to run the 22 mile Pennine Challenge route in less than 12 hours! My shins are in a bit of a state and, due to the damp, I’ve got a nasty rash at the rear of both of my arm pits. The good thing is that I’ve managed to get back on track with the PLANNED SCHEDULE and I’m a good 22 miles ahead on the DAILY AVERAGE SCHEDULE. I’ve got a strong feeling that I’ll be calling upon those bonus miles in the not too distant future.