29. Not the Southampton Marathon

50/50 marathons

29. Not the Southampton Marathon

26th April 2020

…nor was it the London Marathon!

Not only is this week’s marathon not the Southampton marathon, but it’s also not the London Marathon. April 26 is the day that thousands of people should have been running around London, if you were lucky enough to get a place that is. Places for the London Marathon are like gold dust. When you enter, you go into a ballot. I have run the London Marathon twice before, both times through the ballot, so I’m lucky to have had that experience. Now it seems practically impossible to get picked, I’ve tried so many times without success. I really hoped that London would have been on my list this year, but instead I got a place in The Southampton Marathon! Not quite the same.

All that being said, neither marathon went ahead. Both victims of the Coronavirus lockdown. So again I had to make something up to fill the gap.

Last week’s Not the Brighton marathon left me feeling broken all week. Whatever I did wrong leading up to it, I tried not to do it again this week. Truth be told I think I’m just very tired from doing a marathon every week, plus it’s warm when I run, so dehydration is a factor.

I had intended to run on Saturday, but I really couldn’t get myself motivated enough to do it. Sunday morning, still not motivated, but it was either now or never. I pushed myself out of bed and creaked around the house getting ready. I had decided on a route the night before, it was a bit vague in places, so I knew I’d be making it up a bit as I went along. I prefer not having to think about the route. Not knowing where you’re going can just be a bit distracting. With an organised marathon, you still don’t know where you’re going, but at least you know that someone has mapped it out and that it’s the correct distance, so all you need to concentrate on is running.

My vague route was based on a run that I did last year in training with the running club. It was a 16-mile route that went from my house all the way through the center of the Island into Ventnor. Before that, I needed to make up 10 miles. I reverted back to the good old loop around Gurnard, with a few extras to get me to the 10 miles before I started down the cycle track towards Newport. At 10 miles I was running through Cowes high street and I bumped into Caroline walking our dog Winnie. I was starting to feel it already. All I wanted to do was stop and just walk with Caroline.

Not going to lie, I’ve run the cycle track so many times now that it’s getting a bit boring. As a short run, it’s nice, but I find the familiarity of the route disconcerting. Purely because I know how far I have to go. And you just see the same terrain ahead of you. It is nice running along the river though, plus the hedgerows offer some shade from the sun.

The Red Squirrel Trail

Once through Newport the cycle track continues at Shide. This route is called the Red Squirrel trail. It follows what would have been the railway line, all the way into Sandown. I had intended to make a diversion somewhere along the line to go through Godshill, but missed the turning. This trail is lovely, especially on a sunny day like this. There were quite a few cyclists out and about. I couldn’t help thinking that I would be enjoying it so much more if I were riding a bike too, anything but running.

It would be easy to not realise the history of the trail, but along the way, there are reminders of its past life as a railway line. As you run through what would have been Merstone station you can still see the platform. The signage follows the train theme, showing the route that you’re taking.

Not sure where I went wrong, but somewhere along the line I didn’t take the turn I needed to go via Godshill. Possibly a blessing in disguise though as the route I had in mind had some pretty harsh hills. Not sure if that would have been a great idea considering how I was feeling. So I just plowed on towards Sandown as this would still give me the distance, and it was flat. My phone was about to run out of juice, so I needed to let Caroline know that there was a change of plan and I’d be finishing around the Sandown beach area.

The last few miles

The last few miles were suitably horrible. I never get used to that feeling when you’re in the final 10k. This is the point where your brain really starts to work on getting you to stop. I was beginning to get the same spinney head feeling that I had last week. Also, numb and tingly legs and fingers as the blood went to wherever needed it the most. I’m sure this is an unhealthy state to be in. Either way, I knew I didn’t have much left. The final mile Staggering through Sandown was a huge effort, this was not running, this was dribbling and stumbling.

The end couldn’t come quick enough. I slumped down on the first bench I saw and sat there shivering. Even sitting was uncomfortable. Everything was aching. I just hoped Caroline could find me as my phone had long since run out of juice.

When Caroline turned up I hoisted myself from the bench and hobbled over to her. To my surprise, a lovely friend called Maria Vine was also there. I was mortified as I needed to be sick! I hid behind the van. When I eventually pulled myself together I could see that Maria had brought a trophy made by her husband Rich. It was a big brain on a plinth with the Mind logo and Marathon 29 on it. Amazing! Such a lovely thing to do.

So basically this week I took another kicking. I was broken… again. As soon as I got home I showered and slept. Can’t wait until next week!!!







I am running these marathons to raise money for Mind. If you like what I’m doing and would like to donate you can go to my Just Giving page below.

The Needles

28. Not the Brighton Marathon

50/50 marathons

28. Not the Brighton Marathon

19th April 2020

Today I should have been doing the Brighton Marathon. This was not the Brighton Marathon, but instead, it was a weird hybrid of the Isle of Wight Marathon and the Needles Cross Country half Marathon. For anyone who’s done either of those races, you’ll appreciate that it was quite tough!

The day started out full of promise

The sun was out and I felt….. mmmm, ok I wasn’t feeling 100%, but it didn’t matter. It was a good day to be vaguely alive.

Last week’s Easter Lockdown Marathon was a meandering, let’s see where I go, kind of route. There was no plan other than I left my house and 26.2 miles later I came back. This week there had been some clarity from the government. You could actually drive somewhere to get your daily exercise. So I figured I could run somewhere and get picked up. This actually makes much more sense because I was finding that I was seeing a lot of people out for walks when I stayed close to home. This way I saw practically nobody, so I didn’t need to be doing as much crossing over to avoid being too close to someone.

The plan

This week I had a plan. I had consulted the oracle (Google maps) and had plotted a route that would leave my house and go anti-clockwise around the Isle of Wight, ending up somewhere around Freshwater Bay. Difficult to be accurate as there are so many twists and turns along the way that clock up the miles, but it looked around the right distance. One key part of the route was to join the coastal path that makes up the Needles Cross Country half. I’ve always enjoyed that race, so I thought it might be nice…. idiot!

support along the way

The first half

After leaving my house at about 9:30, I ran along the seafront towards Gurnard. It was super busy, walkers, runners, cyclists, and cars. This made it interesting to maintain the appropriate distance. At times I was running in the middle of the road.

Once beyond the Woodvale pub (ooh nice cold pint of beer), I headed out through Gurnard luck, where I was pleasantly surprised by the welcome sight of some friends, The Cranwell’s, waiting to give me a cheer. Such a lovely surprise as these solo marathons are hard without the support along the way. This gave me a real boost and I continued up and along Rew Street with a skip in my stride. Here I also bumped into another friend who was out for a cycle. Another boost. Heck, I was like Pac-Man eating up boosts as I ran. I continued on towards Porchfield at a good pace. I hadn’t really been monitoring my speed but I realised I was keeping a steady 8-minute mile. Schoolboy error. It’s all too easy with a marathon to go off at a pace that may feel fine for the first few miles, but guaranteed, unless you’re Mo Farah, this will come back to haunt you later in the run.

A sun dappled road near Newtown Creek
Yarmouth harbour on a sunny day

Early warning signs

By the time I got to Yarmouth, I was beyond halfway and was beginning to feel the fruits of my earlier labours. Fatigue was upon me, far too soon. I was reminded of the first of these 50, The Isle of Wight Marathon. I made the same mistake of setting off too fast then and by halfway I was toast. This was feeling a bit like that.

Leaving Yarmouth towards Freshwater and Totland, the hills were quite hilly and my legs were feeling like lead. My idea to tag onto the Needles Half route was suddenly becoming a really stupid idea. For anyone who’s done that race, most people would concur that it is a hard route. Beautiful, but really hilly. Nevertheless, I continued at quite a slow pace, by now my earlier 8-minute mile pace had settled to a 10-minute mile pace.

Alum Bay was quiet. Not a soul around. A bit like an empty funfair in an episode of Scooby-Doo. My memories of Alum Bay are of a place that is full of tourists. As a kid, I would delight in filling a glass test tube with the different coloured sands taken from the cliffs of Alum Bay. You were rewarded with a multi-layered kaleidoscope of colour in a test tube that would ultimately gather dust on your parent’s shelves until one day it just wasn’t there!

As I ran/staggered up towards the Needles I looked back upon the cliffs of Alum Bay, and once again I was filled with doubt about where those colourful sands that I remember as a kid actually came from. The cliffs are essentially a reddish-brown in colour, what about all those other hues? It’s still pretty, so that conspiracy can wait until another day.

One of the main things that I wanted to achieve on this run was to see the Needles. Any Islander would probably admit to enjoying the sight of The Needles, especially on a sunny day. It’s kind of like our own Statue of Liberty, only in the shape of a lighthouse flanked by some rocks. The area is steeped in history, at one point it was a rocket testing site. Now it’s all pretty run down, but worth the trip if you like a bit of history.

A very quiet Alum Bay
Looking back at the Alum Bay cliffs
The Needles

Bloody hills!

So while I geeked out at the majesty of the Needles, I’d forgotten about the steps up from the old battery and then the subsequent beasty hills as you join the Tennyson Trail. it’s fair to say that I was done for at this point. I was spinning out and once again I found myself regretting my life choices.

Schoolboy error number two

I sat down! You never sit down on a marathon, it’s fatal, but I bloody did it. I saw a bench halfway up from the battery and I bloody sat down. I stopped and had a look around while I caught my breath. A couple of minutes max, but the deed was done and I entered the last few miles as a stiff-legged hobbler.

In the far distance I could see the Tennyson monument standing proud. I knew that to get to that point there were hills. Once again I was reminded of a previous marathon of the 50, the one I dubbed the South Wight Ballbreaker. In that, the Tennyson monument was my halfway turning point and even with fresher legs, I struggled up those hills. This time I was in the final couple of miles with legs of lead. It was slow going.

When I did get there, I stopped, had a look around and sat down, again! My head was spinning, my legs were elsewhere for the time being and I felt sick. What had I done leading up to this point to make me feel so rubbish? Was it the glass of wine I had the previous night? Was it the stresses of the previous week? Was it my stupid pace at the start? I dare say it was a combination of all.

Feeling exhausted at Tennyson Monument
Freshwater Bay

All I needed to do was make it down the hill into Freshwater Bay. It wasn’t pretty. I stumbled down the hill, moaning and groaning as I went. Thank God nobody was around to witness this pitiful display. Once in Freshwater, I sat, was sick and waited for my lift home. The sun was warm and it was peaceful. All I could hear was the water lapping the shore. Glad to finish and then here was Caroline to come and pick up the pieces yet again ❤️

A friendly boost

One of the best things about these marathons in this time of lockdown, no, THE best thing, is the support I’m getting from friends. The hand made medals have been a real treat at the end. This week I received a hand made mini-me from the lovely David and Alice Baker 😊

I was supposed to be running the Brighton marathon with Dave and once it was postponed we decided to still run together on the Island. But the ferries have all pretty much stopped so that put a stop to our plan. Dave ran his own marathon yesterday, supported by Alice in the last 12k. It would have been lovely to run with them today. I loved receiving their medal at the end.

Next week should be the Southampton marathon. But it will be another virtual run. Need to get planning!







I am running these marathons to raise money for Mind. If you like what I’m doing and would like to donate you can go to my Just Giving page below.

Easter lockdown marathon medal

27. Easter lockdown marathon

50/50 marathons

27. Easter lockdown marathon

11th April 2020

Easter Lockdown Marathon

The Easter Lockdown marathon. As the Coronavirus lockdown continues into the Easter break, I’m struggling to vary my routes. Today I had no plan, I was literally just going to run and see where it took me.

Last week’s marathon was painful, to be honest, none of them are comfortable, but last week I was hurting right from the start. So I figured it was time to get some new running shoes. Running shoes tend to have a limit on mileage before it’s recommended you change. It varies between shoes, but I generally try and change my shoes every 500 miles. That being said, my trustee Mizuno’s had done that and then some. They were due for a change.

Hey, I got my new shoes on…

Running shoes of any credibility are not cheap, if I can I try and buy locally. There’s a great little shop on the Island called Love Running, but like most places, they’re shut at the moment. So I had to do the online thing, which is definitely cheaper, but lacks the attention to detail required when choosing a new running shoe. For a start you can’t try them on first, but also if you’re unsure of your running gait, you can make a choice that is potentially harmful. So it’s good to be able to go to a running store and get proper advice. Needs must though, so I went for a shoe I’d had before, Hoka One One’s. They’re a bit more supportive and cushioned and I think I need that right now.

The sun was out and it was already quite warm. Such a nice change to all the cold, wet and windy marathons that have gone before. It really makes a difference when the weather is nice, and you’re not having to struggle through thick mud, wondering when you’re going to fall on your arse for the tenth time!

As I set off in my new shoes, with the sun beating down, I had a spring in my step and felt good…. for a bit!

Cowes Isle of Wight
River Medina Isle of Wight
Belmont Copse Isle of Wight

Running without direction

With no clearly defined route in my head I thought I’d revisit the run that I did as my big Sunday run whilst I was building up to starting this challenge. It was a 22 mile route, so only needed to tag on a few extra miles to make it to the full distance. From my house I run through Cowes, along the seafront to Gurnard. This is such a lovely refreshing run and I’m looking forward to just doing little 6 milers along this route again.

Up through Gurnard and turn left to tuttons hill, down Baring Road to Egypt Hill. From there I loop back up into Gurnard, but at the top of Worsley Road I turn Right down Church Road. Little loop back up to Worsley road and then head back to Cowes along the seafront. Sounds like a repetitive route but it’s lovely and there’s a few hills to mix it up a bit.

From Cowes I head towards Newport along the cycle track. Once in Newport at The Quay arts centre, go left out passed The back on Medina School and keep going along the path until you reach Island Harbour. There’s a wreck of an old steam ship called The Ryde Queen. Always makes me sad to see this. I remember years ago we used to go to it as there used to be a disco/nightclub on board. Now it’s just left to rust, it’s back is broken and it’s slowly collapsing.

Ryde Queen, Island Harbour

From this point I was about 15 miles in and the spring in my step had sprung off somewhere else. I was also about to go freestyle to try and make up the extra miles. I knew that once back at the quay in Newport would be 4 miles back to Cowes and the finish, so I needed to find 7 miles.

Cross over Fairlee Road from Island Harbour, there’s a path that takes you up into some lovely trail that sits on the outskirts between Wootton and Newport. I don’t know what this area is called. It’s a mix of rolling farmland and sun dappled woods. I actually really enjoyed not knowing where I was going and just exploring the trail. I knew that if I kept heading vaguely right that I would be heading back into Newport.

At one point I tried to get up onto St George’s Down, but found myself in a cow pat riddled field with no obvious way of getting out, so I gave up on that and got back onto Burnt House Lane where I knew I could weave my way out towards Carisbrooke.

From Carisbrooke it’s back into Newport to the Quay and the last few miles to shuffle back home. My times aren’t the best, but I gave up on any form of PB a long way back. I think the last time I managed a sub 4 hour marathon was very early on at the Chelmsford marathon, since then I’ve seen a steady decline. But I’ve found relief in not worrying about the time. If I dwell on finishing in a certain time it puts far too much pressure on and I only end up feeling disappointed at the end when I don’t hit a target. By not focusing on time, I find it a much more satisfying and enjoyable experience.

Coronavirus craziness

These last few marathons in this crazy world of Coronavirus have been nice. Although I’ve missed the experience of an organised marathon and the adventure of travelling to places I’ve never been. These solo runs have not had the pressure of catching ferries and rushing down motorways to get back, feeling rubbish from having just done a marathon.

But the thing that has really been amazing is the support from my friends and family. I’ve really loved receiving the medals that friends have made and appreciate the consideration and time that they have put in just for me. After this one Caroline handed me a medal made by my friend Paul Armfield. In the shape of the superman logo, but with an N instead of an S. bloody love it! It’s the icing on the cake to receive something like that, far nicer than the usual generic medal you get at the end of official races, way more precious.

As well as making medals, Paul Armfield is a hugely talented musician. His new album ‘Domestic’ is set to launch later this year. It’s a beautiful collection of songs that are related to home, so quite appropriate for these crazy days under the cosh of Coronavirus. Go and take a look at his website paularmfield.com.

Easter Lockdown Marathon







I am running these marathons to raise money for Mind. If you like what I’m doing and would like to donate you can go to my Just Giving page below.

26. Not the Manchester Marathon

50/50 marathons

26. Not the Manchester Marathon

5th April 2020

The postponement blues

Today’s run was not the Manchester Marathon, but instead it was another Isle of Wight marathon. The Manchester Marathon has been postponed to September, luckily on a date that I can do. I was looking forward to fulfill my Smiths fan dream of visiting the Salford Lads Club! In the meantime, with the Coronavirus lock down still very much in place, I’m having to improvise.

The problem I’m having is devising new runs that go from my house and end at my house. I’ve run around this area so much that the choice is somewhat limited.

My route for today was to run from home, down the cycle track into Newport, out along Forest Road and down Betty Haunt Lane. Once at the Blacksmiths Arms, I need to forget about all the lovely times I’ve had there with friends drinking cold pints of beer and plough on up a little path that takes me up onto the downs. Here I ran along the Tennyson Trail, through Brighstone Forest and on towards Freshwater.

I turned back too soon

I turned at the 12.5 mile mark, this was a little too early as it left me needing to make up 1.5 miles at the end, my capacity to work out even simple maths after running a few miles does tend to ebb away. I headed back the way I came, by now there were a few people out and about on bikes or walking their dog, but all in all it was so quiet. The sun was glorious and the Isle of Wight was looking quietly resplendent. It really was a perfect day for running along the downs. I generally always get a bit euphoric around half way in, knowing that I’m half way is a boost. I tend to forget that the next half is where it all goes pear shaped.

Rather than go back completely the same way, at Forest road I turned up Whitehouse Lane toward Gurnard. By now I was really struggling. My Achilles are so tight and painful at the moment, feels like they’re about to snap, but then I guess that’s what happens when you run a marathon every week for 26 weeks! I also have a bit of a tear in my right calf, this was strapped up so wasn’t too bad, but certainly didn’t make me any faster. I was slightly distracted by the shortfall in the distance, trying to figure out where I could make up that extra distance and cursing myself for turning too soon. Psychologically it’s harder making the distance up at the end.

Running around in circles

I took an extra loop around Gurnard, knowing that by the time I got to the Green I needed to have just two miles to go to make it right. I was still half mile short. Running along the seafront toward Cowes has always been a favourite route, especially when the sun’s out. There we’re quite a few people out for walks so I was forever crossing the road to give them space. I figured I’d run up through Northwood Park in the hope that it would make up a bit of distance.

By the time I got near home I was looping around different roads to try and eek a few extra metres, but I still ended up running up and down a couple of times outside my house to make sure my Runkeeper app had registered the distance. Ironically I find that Runkeeper can be not the most accurate as generally on a proper measured marathon it reads it as slightly shorter, sometimes by up to a mile! Nevertheless I still had to squeeze that extra bit out. All-in-all this was quite a slow run, I struggled and was relieved to be able to stop.

When I got in I sat outside for a bit to pull myself together and Caroline handed me a brown paper bag. My friends have been kindly making me medals to have while everything else is cancelled. One touch of this bag and I knew instantly who had made it. I pulled out a construction of bike cogs and chains made into a medal. I knew this had to be Simon Chambers handy work, he’s a bike nutter and always tinkering with them. Another lovely, personal medal for the collection. These are way more special than any generic medal from a race.

I think being out in the sun took its toll as when I got in I showered and went and had a nap, I was shattered.







I am running these marathons to raise money for Mind. If you like what I’m doing and would like to donate you can go to my Just Giving page below.

25. The Halfway Hustle

50/50 marathons

25. The Halfway Hustle

28th March 2020

Today’s run is the halfway hustle, I’ve finally made it halfway in this 50 marathon challenge.

Strange times

Coronavirus has officially taken over the world, everyone has been requested to stay at home. Businesses have shut and people are working from home, shops are closed unless they’re food shops. These have been emptied of everything and as soon as they get stocked back up, the locusts empty them again. Who knew that toilet paper and hand sanitiser would become a rare and valuable commodity? The streets are practically deserted, with the odd person scurrying around hoping not to bump into anyone else for fear of catching Coronavirus.

These are strange times indeed, but we are still allowed to walk the dog and go out for exercise, so, as it currently stands, I am able to continue with my marathon challenge. Not sure how long it will be till there is a limit to time spent exercising. I doubt 4 hours plus is an acceptable time frame, and I certainly can’t do it any quicker.

Home run

This weekend was the halfway point, so a milestone in my challenge. I was scheduled to do an event called The Dorset Ooser, but obviously that had been cancelled. Last week the restrictions on travel were a bit more relaxed, so I was able to run 26 miles from my house, without having to loop back on myself and then get picked up at the finish. This meant I could be a bit more creative with the route. This week however, all unnecessary car travel has been stopped, which means I am bound to running 13.1 miles away from home and then 13.1 miles back. The routes are quite limited.

The Isle of Wight Marathon… again!

As it was the 25 marathon, I thought that the appropriate route to do would be the Isle of Wight marathon route. I generally fail miserably at this, my last attempt being no exception, so what’s the worse that could happen???

The weather forecast for the weekend was generally fine, but there was a strong wind on the Saturday, getting stronger on the Sunday, so I decided to run Saturday. I set off at about 9:30am. I’ve taken to listening to music on these ones, to try and keep me going, running a marathon solo can be quite a lonely experience and running in silence can play tricks on your mind. I just found an uplifting playlist and hit shuffle. A lot of the songs were quite dubious and not my cup of tea at all, but I wasn’t going to be fussy. I did raise a smile when Africa by Toto came on. It’s a stone cold classic and I love it.

The route leaves Cowes through Gurnard and then out past Thorness and through Porchfield. From here you continue to Shalfleet, then main road all the way through to Yarmouth, where you join the old train track, now a cycle path. This path meanders along the edge of the river Yar towards Freshwater. At the halfway point, the route goes back inland and takes you along some side roads through Thorley and Wellow, before taking you back to Shalfleet and along the same route you came out on.

Coming back through Shalfleet is roughly 20 miles, my legs were heavy and my ankles were in agony, but I took solace in the knowledge that I felt a lot better than the last time I did this route.

The last few miles of the route are notoriously hilly, so it’s just a case of gritting teeth and putting one foot in front of the other. By the time I got to the final hill at Pallance Road I felt ok but decided to just walk it, my right calf muscle was feeling tight and I didn’t want to make it worse. The final distance was hit pretty much outside Aldi. The sub 4 hour window was missed, but not by much.

‘You rock Neil Marathon Man’

All in all a fairly uneventful run, not much to say, no exciting occurrences, other than having to cross the road occasionally to avoid other people! However once back home Caroline handed me a lovely hand made box. Inside the box was a beautiful handmade star-shaped badge that had the words ‘You rock Neil Marathon man’ hammered into it. A lovely friend, Jemma Ratcliff, had made it for me as a medal for finishing another marathon. Such a sweet and kind gesture. I will treasure it.

Next week…. who knows? I certainly don’t. Go take a look.


Time taken





I am running these marathons to raise money for Mind. If you like what I’m doing and would like to donate you can go to my Just Giving page below.