42. The Meaning of Life Marathon

50/50 marathons

42. The Meaning of Life Marathon

26th July 2020.

ready to go

“The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything is 42”

Douglas Adams – The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

So, I’ve made it to number 42, I never thought I’d make it this far. I guess it’s made me a bit thoughtful, but, don’t panic, I haven’t drunk enough to start having the meaning of life conversation. But it did make me wonder what the hell I was going to do this week for a marathon and with the number 42 looming, I figured I should do something of meaning, more than just running a marathon.

Last year I regularly went out and plogged! A weird phrase that generally raises eyebrows and makes people question if you’re into weird sexual practices. No.

The word plogging is an English-Swedish combination of jogging and plocka upp, which means “pick up” in Swedish. Swedish speakers use plogga, a combination of plocka upp with jogga (“jog”). Both words, though, refer to the same activity of picking up litter while out on a jog.

So there you have it, litter picking while running. I started purely because I cannot stand litter and Cowes was bad. Not as bad as some places, but any litter is bad enough. The thing is, once you’ve focused on it, you can’t help but see it, wherever you go. I’ve been brought up to not leave rubbish behind, so to me, it’s anti-social behavior and it just brings the area down. But, more importantly, we’re seeing the negative effects of the rubbish that gets left in a natural habitat and especially the oceans. It’s literally choking the planet and the majority of people are happy to turn a blind eye to it! I don’t get it? So rather than just get wound up by it, I started to go out and pick it up, bag it up and dispose of it properly.

There’s always a lot of focus around beach cleans, and rightly so. But I tend to focus on the streets around where I live. I think people generally assume this is dealt with by the council, but it doesn’t seem to be at all. We live by the coast, so it doesn’t take much for that rubbish to find it’s way into the water and end up out at sea.

I would go out and cover a 3-mile area and collect between 2 – 4 bags of rubbish, just around the streets where I live! But the worse thing about it was, no matter how many times I did it, it was always back, just as bad the next week.

The trouble with plogging is that it is back-breaking work, so I could never do enough before my back said ‘Stop!’

When I started this marathon challenge I decided to stop doing it, purely because I didn’t want to cause a back issue. It gave me sciatic pains, so I needed to play safe. But, the nagging feeling I get when I see the growing amount of litter is still there.

Anyway, I’m rambling a bit, so I’ll cut to the point. Today’s marathon was a plogging marathon. It was slow, very slow. I was out for eight and a half hours, picking up rubbish. I started off going up and down the streets of Cowes, this way I could easily go back and drop full bags at home. Then I headed down along the cycle track and up the other side of the river to Island harbour. Back along Fairlee road, through Newport, and then back up into Cowes and home.

I managed to gather 10 big bin liners full of rubbish before I had to stop for fear of hurting myself. It’s not necessarily picking up the rubbish that is problematic, it’s carrying it while running that is the problem. It gets very heavy and awkward to get into a flow. Actually, you don’t get into a flow. I think I would run about 10 steps before I had to stop again to pick something up.

Plogging in Cowes
Bag of rubbish
Collected bags of litter

Problems ahead

While in the lockdown period, it was nice to see nature being given a break from us. It gave me hope and I naively thought that perhaps this could be the thing to rebalance things a bit. I was wrong! It seems we’ve come out of lockdown with an attitude that we’re going to make up for lost time. A vast amount of rubbish is being left. I was running along the river and picked up so much rubbish left by people who had clearly sat there because it’s nice, but then weirdly decided it’s ok to just leave their rubbish!

I found people sitting by the river, enjoying their own picnic, yet they were surrounded by plastic and cans! Under normal circumstances, I’d be wondering why they didn’t pick it up themselves. I realise they shouldn’t have to, it shouldn’t be there in the first place. But now everyone is so over conscious of other people’s germs that there is no way they’re going to touch it.

Which brings me on to another issue that is clearly getting out of hand. Masks and gloves. I lost count of how many I picked up today. Most of these masks are made from a plastic substrate. They aren’t going anywhere for a long time, and there are a lot of single-use masks being used right now. But then they are just being discarded. Slung by the roadside. How is that acceptable? If people don’t want to pick up a used can or bottle, you can be sure they won’t go near a mask or surgical gloves!

Ok, I’ll leave that there before my head explodes. I found today really discouraging, so am feeling the need to vent. Not helped by the fact that on the last few miles back I went back up the cycle track. I had already been down that way and filled up 2 bags, yet on my way back, the litter was already appearing again! At the bottom of my street I picked up about 6 empty beer cans, all the same brand, and in the same place, it was obviously the same person. I picked them up before I headed to Newport. By the time I got back, there were 2 more!

As runs go, this was a weird one. I can’t really call it a run as there was very little proper running, but believe me, it was far more exhausting than a regular marathon.

Once back and thoroughly showered, Caroline sat me down and gave me not one, but 3 homemade medals. The first from my brother Chris was a necklace with a 42 pendant on it that comes from the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Then from my lovely friend Mike Atkinson a second medal of a running man video box with a digital runner embedded into it. The third was a 7” single of Running in the Family by Level 42, but the best thing was that it was signed with a personal message to me from Mark King! The effort that my family and friends have gone to, to give me a medal at the end of these runs has just amazed me. I am so thankful to all of them 😊

My Run Keeper app had a bit of a wobbly and only recorded about six and a half hours of the route. I failed to switch it on for the first few miles and then it must have paused somewhere along the way, so sadly it’s not a complete record. I was hoping to share the rather peculiar route.

signed copy of Running in the family

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.

Pint of beer

41. I Feel Fine Marathon

50/50 marathons

41. I Feel Fine Marathon

19th July 2020.

Marathon 41 starting group

So to give the name a bit of context, at last week’s Wonder Woman Dash I was in bits, the last lap broke me and I finished up curled up on the green, unable to communicate. This week was a completely different experience. At the end of the marathon, I was asked how I felt and I was happy to reply ‘I feel fine!’

I have spent the entire week in different states of fatigue, at times completely knackered, other times a bit washed out and could do with a lie-down. So, in short, I wasn’t relishing doing it all again this weekend. The days leading up to today have been rather hot, so I was worried it would be another hot marathon. Luckily the gods of drizzle had different plans.

I’d been contacted by some other runners who were going to run the virtual Southampton Marathon and wondered if I’d like to join them? I jumped at the chance because, quite frankly, I hate running marathons on my own. I had company last week and, even though I may have been suffering, I really did love having the company.

The plan was to meet up at the Bargeman’s rest pub and use that as a base. We’d do a few different loops that all came back to the Bargeman’s so that people could have food and drink. I thought it best to run from Cowes first, just in case I was flagging behind, then at least I’d have A few miles in the bank.

I set off at 8:15. it was my perfect running weather. A fine drizzle, but not cold, just refreshing. The cycle track is pretty sheltered so I wasn’t getting too wet, it was nice as I ran along to hear the rain on the trees, and that lovely warm damp smell you get in summer when it rains.

At the Bargeman’s there were about 8 other runners. Some were going to do their own pace and choice of route, I was happy to just go along with whatever the majority were doing. We all set off at 9 and went at different paces. There was a group of 4 of us that were going to do 10-minute miles so we stuck together for the entire thing.

We went back up the cycle track, into Cowes, along the seafront to Gurnard, and then back down the main road towards Newport and drinks stop at the Bargeman’s. The rain was not stopping so we were all soaked. Some had thought this through and had t shirt changes at their cars, a wise move. Not me though!

For the second loop, we were going to go up Mountjoy, but that Idea was dropped, so we just went back up and down the cycle track again. To be honest, we were chatting all the way so I didn’t even notice the route. At one point I checked my distance expecting it to be about 14, but was delighted to see 17.5! That literally never happens.

Once back at the Bargeman’s we had a quick refreshment stop and off we went, this time out towards Island Harbour. I only had about 3 miles left to do and I knew this last stretch would push me over the 26.2, but I felt ok still! I never feel good in the last few miles, so I was quite pleasantly surprised. I wish they could all be like this.

I was 4 miles ahead of the others so when we got back to the pub they still had 4 miles to do, but I could sit and relax, safe in the knowledge that I only have 9 more marathons to go before I can hang up my trainers and sit on the couch.

All in all, not too shabby, I could even eat and have a beer afterward, normally I can’t stomach anything, but for some reason, today was Ok. Caroline came to rescue me with some dry clothes and also gave me a bag full of nice treats and a brilliant little medal from my friend Richie. Richie has been a great running partner over the years so it was really nice to get this gift. Richie, the vegan gummy bears didn’t stand a chance!

Marathon 41 at the end
Finishers beer







Quick update on the donations for Mind. Last week’s Wonder Woman dash seemed to work wonders. The total is currently £2566, which is absolutely amazing. Who knew that running in a dress was the secret to raising money for charity?

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.

Its a sign

40. The Wonder Woman Dash

50/50 marathons

40. The Wonder Woman Dash

12th July 2020.

The start

So, I’ve made it to the 40th marathon! I felt the need to do something to mark the occasion and also to try and give the charity donations a bit of a boost. A friend had been adding Wonder Woman gifs as comments to my Facebook posts, and so the Wonder Woman Dash was born. This seemed like a great idea at the time. I offered to run the 40th marathon dressed as Wonder Woman if I could get the donations to over £1500. In no time the donations hit that target and so I was committed to my promise!

First things first, find a costume. A good friend donated a costume that sadly was a bit on the tight side, so Caroline got on the case and found a costume with all the bits and bobs to go with it. So now I was good to go. All that I needed was a route.

I could have found a quiet route, but I felt I should probably go for maximum visibility and complete humiliation, plus I was told that some people might want to run for a bit with me. The route was a simple 4 lap loop around Cowes and Gurnard. It involved running through Cowes and the Parade, but it also had a few nasty hills. Winding Way from the seafront up into Gurnard was the first, short, but very sharp. Rew street is a gentle climb that seems to go on forever, but the best/worst is the dreaded Pallance Road. This hill makes an appearance at the 24-mile mark of the Isle of Wight Marathon. But for some reason, I thought it would be good to have it appear 4 times, possibly a mistake! From Pallance it was downhill back into Cowes High Street. It was funny to see the confused looks on people as we passed through. Just a regular Sunday morning in Cowes.

Amazing Support

One thing I hadn’t really prepared for was the amazing amount of support that I got. It really was quite humbling to see people there to support me along the way. Right from the start as I left my house, some friends were there to run with me. My friend, Wayne Cranwell, dressed in a Ninja Turtle outfit, which was brilliant, because it took a bit of the heat off of me as we ran along. I know he suffered for it as well. Gemma Swain was also there to run the first lap. We met Simon Lilly from the Red Jet ferry and he ran along for two laps. My recollection thereafter of who joined us at what point is a bit vague, but I had company for every lap. Beverley-Jo Fisher, Guy Boorman, Mark Bailey, and also Waynes Wife Nicola ran for a bit with their son. Rob Hunter breezed along 3 of the laps with me including the terrible last lap. We were also joined by Peter and Jodie Willmot on the last lap. These guys are fantastic runners, so I felt really bad that I was in such bad shape from the point that they tagged along.

Along with the running support, my friend Toby Collard had put out a Facebook group post to have a bit of a gathering on the Green along Cowes Seafront. This acted as a base for a nice bunch of people. I think I would have preferred to have been there enjoying the sun with them all, rather than running around. Each lap they cheered and gave me a real boost. It was lovely to see so many friendly faces. Caroline was based there with a supply of water and food as well.

Further along, there were more friendly faces, I even saw my Dad at one point, it’s still a bit of a blur! Simon Chambers was there at each lap on Solent View Road with some water and ice cubes. He’s done many a grueling run himself, so he knew what to do. At the very top of the beast that is Pallance Road, Jo and Aaron Rudd had set up a water station with an incredible hand made sign. This became a focal point on each lap because getting up Pallance is such a mission and the heat of the day was getting to me, so the sight of their house was a much-needed respite.

Wonder Woman with Gemma Swain
Hero in a half shell
Second lap
Team Wonder Woman

The last lap

The last 6 miles of any marathon is always the worst. Today was probably the worst of all of them so far. I don’t know what it was but I was in a terrible state from the moment we started the last lap. I can only assume it was down to the heat of the day that made it so hard. As I ran along the parade past the group of supporters to start that final lap I could feel the tingling in my hands and legs that I’ve felt many times before as the blood moved to essential organs. When this happens, I’m generally done for. I was spinning out so badly. At one point along Rew Street, I collapsed in a heap on the floor, I was so dizzy that I literally couldn’t see. I managed to get back up and stagger on for a bit longer. I felt quite self-conscious and a bit of a let down to the friends running with me. Rob, Jodie, Pete and Mark Bailey (for a second lap). They were all great. I think without them there I would have quit, but their encouragement kept me going. Pete even dashed off to go and get a gel from home for me. He probably liked the chance to have a proper run.

I was dreading the prospect of going up Pallance on that last lap, even walking was tough, my head was spinning so badly. Yet again, I collapsed in a heap on the side of the road and was sick. I’m positive the real Wonder Woman wouldn’t do this! Strangely I felt a tiny bit better after that and Pete had made it back with an electrolyte drink for me. This pepped me up just enough to continue. The Rudd pit stop was there with a hose to refresh me at the top of Pallance and then from there it was just a case of getting back down to the Green where I could finally collapse.

The finish

The marathon actually finished at the bottom of Mill Hill Road. I checked my Runkeeper app to confirm this, only to find that it had stopped very early on in the run, so hadn’t recorded it! It’s fine though as there were enough witnesses. I did try to run as much of this last bit as possible but kept on having to stop to walk for a bit. Reaching the end was a huge relief. My support crew had set up a ribbon across the path for me to go through, a brilliant gesture. I wish I could have been in a better state to chat with my friends at the end but unfortunately, I threw myself onto the grass and curled up in a very unglamorous heap. I can only assume I must have looked like someone on a stag do that was somewhat worse for wear. I have a vague memory of Richard Quigley putting a tigger medal around my neck. Thank you Richard 🙂

The whole idea of running this marathon as Wonder Woman was to give the donations to Mind a boost. I’m thrilled to say the donations are currently £2,459! Thank you so much to all the people who have donated. In these tough times, it really is great that people can still support charities, like Mind who will, no doubt, be having a hard year. The support they offer to people suffering from mental health issues is now, more than ever, so important to continue.

Starting the third lap
The finish
Wonder Woman

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.

39. Pain in the Arse Marathon

50/50 marathons

39. Pain in the Arse Marathon

5th July 2020.

After last weeks fall on the Monumental Marathon, coming down from the Hoy monument, I’ve had a really painful lower back. Luckily just bruising, but I have spent the week moaning and groaning, much to Caroline and Ella’s delight. The thought had crossed my mind to take a week off to let my back settle, but where’s the fun in that eh?

My original plan was to run on Saturday, just to get it out of the way more than anything, but the weather was so unappealing that I decided to leave it to Sunday. There’s something really nice about being in bed with a coffee, trying to muster up the enthusiasm to get out there, but then making the decision to leave it another day, especially when it’s raining and windy. You can just lie back and smile in the knowledge that you’ve got a bit of a reprieve. Only thing is, this morning I had to just get on with it, no excuses.

In light of the pain in my back, today’s route was kept simple and flat. As much as I dislike the cycle track run, it is flat and straightforward, and that’s just what I needed. Apologies for the shot below, this is just to illustrate why I have called this marathon the Pain in the Arse Marathon. It literally was that, all the way!

Ahem! Moving on…

There’s not much I can really say about this route that I haven’t already covered in previous posts. It’s a nice route, but not that interesting for runners, especially when you’ve done it loads of times before.

I’ve realised that I prefer hills! Strange thing to admit to, but they offer a challenge and break the monotony of the run. I also prefer not knowing where I’m going. The challenge I’ve faced with these Island-based marathons is to keep it fresh and interesting. For me, there’s nothing worse than running a route that is really familiar. Loops are also mind-bogglingly tedious. I’ve done a few marathons in this challenge that are loops of the same course and they just left me cold. Even in this time of no organised marathons, if the opportunity came up to do one of these, I’d have to turn it down. But some people really like them, I guess there’s peace of mind in knowing where you are and how far you have to go. No surprises.

With the cycle track, or Red Squirrel Trail, it’s not as bad as doing loops, but it’s not far off. It is flat though and for today’s run, it would be fine.

I set off at about 8:30 and straight away I was in pain. The motion of running was not a good feeling on my lower back. It was exasperated by wearing the water pouch on my back. All I could do was plod on and hope that pain elsewhere would take the focus off my back.

As I got toward the end of the Cowes cycle track near Newport, I was pleased to see the familiar face of Richard Harvey running towards me. Richie is a chap who I’ve run with loads and we’ve done many marathons together. He’s far faster than me though. We’re due to run Bruges Marathon together later in the year if it goes ahead, I really hope it does, but it’s looking unlikely. Richie ran with me for a couple of miles, which took my mind off of the back.

While running along I noticed a Herd of cow’s in a field, all of them cream in colour, apart from one solitary grey one that seemed to be keeping to itself. On my way back I noticed all of the cream cow’s had huddled together to shelter from the wind, but the grey cow stood outside of the herd on its own still! Made me feel sad to see, I’m curious to know if Cows can be a bit spiteful and maybe even a little bit racist? That’s the sort of weird stuff that goes through my head on a run!

The last few miles were just agony, my back was in spasms, and with the slowing of pace my legs were seizing up on me. So I was quite relieved to finish and tick that one off the list.

Once home, Caroline gave me a package to open. This is always the most exciting part. Inside the package was a frame with a lovely paper cut picture of me running, it made me look like I was running fast, I like that. Not true, but Nice all the same. I can never get over how friends have taken the time to do these things for me. This beauty was done by the lovely Michelle Salsbury. Also inside the package was a Tunnocks tea cake. I used to love these, but sadly they’re not on the menu until a plant-based option is developed. But I looked at it longingly. It was a bit squashed but it still looked tempting. I picked it up to read the ingredients and realised it was a bit hard to be full of marshmallow goodness. I unwrapped it to find that Michelle had also painted up a stone with the number 39 on it. Thanks Michelle. Crisis averted, I continue as a vegan 😊

So, 11 more to go. Next week is number 40. I can’t quite believe that I’ve made it this far. I wanted to pack it in straight after the very first one in October last year, and many more times since.

The donations to Mind are over £1800 now, so as promised I will run next week’s marathon in a Wonder Woman costume. I’ll keep the route as public as possible, for maximum humiliation 😳







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.