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34. The Inaugural Massive Anchor Marathon

50/50 marathons

34. The Inaugural Massive Anchor Marathon

May 31st 2020.

Massive Anchor Marathon start

Hot, hot, hot! Not me, I look like a sack of potatoes, the weather

Last week my maths was off when I said I had 16 to go. That was clearly a brain fart brought on by not being able to count to more than 3 after running a marathon! Now there are only 16 left to do.

Last week I thought I only had 16 to go, so a week later being back at the same figure is a bit disheartening. I mean, I could have been saying ‘only 15 more to go’ which is a much nicer figure. I guess I shall save that little party for next week.

Luckily I have Caroline to mark my work, so she picked up on my bad arithmetic.

So this weeks marathon was without a name until my friend Guy came up with the perfect suggestion, but more of that later.

I was originally booked in to run the Hellstone Marathon. This is a sister race to The Dorset Ooser. Sadly both races, organised by Badger Trail Events, got postponed until later in the year on dates that I’m already booked for something else. I was weirdly looking forward to them, but I think the names suggest that they may have been quite tough!

As usual I was stuck for ideas of routes for this week, and being in denial about the whole challenge right now didn’t help. Luckily Guy stepped forward once again with a suggestion for a route. So there was my plan.

The weather is really nice at the moment, but very hot, so not ideal for marathon running. When I was planning this challenge I assumed the winter months would be the hardest, and they were, but running on a hot day poses its own problems. I decided it would be wise to set off early, to avoid the hottest part of the day. So off I trotted at 7 am from my house and on towards the ever faithful and very familiar Cycle Track to Newport.

Massive Anchor Marathon cycle track

A welcome running partner

Beyond there once again I continued along the Red Squirrel Trail from Shide. As I was running I was listening to the Marathon Talk podcast, but I could hear someone approaching behind. I turned to see a friend called Steve Powell with a big grin on his face. He’s currently training for a marathon that may not go ahead, but having committed the time to the training is still going ahead regardless.

He has on his big run for the week so we ran together for a while, keeping a safe distance of course. I’d forgotten how nice it is to run with someone else. When you’re on your own it’s easy to get into a bit of a plod, but running with someone else means you run a better pace and while chatting you don’t even notice the miles.

I had intended to take a turn that goes towards Godshill but yet again I missed it. I really must figure that out because it’s not the first time. Steve was going a different way, so we parted company and I headed what I thought was the right way, only to realise it wasn’t, so I turned around and continued the same way as Steve, but he was gone. In hind sight I think it was the right way to go because I spent the next few miles trying to wind my way towards Godshill. Trouble is, I found a nice Woodland trail called Martins reserve, or something like that. Never been there before and it was such a nice trail to run on that I just went with it.

Of course that put me right off track, but I eventually found my way onto the road to Godshill. You’d think having lived on the Island for the years I have that I would know it like the back of my hand. Apparently not!

There’s a lovely trail from Godshill called the Worsley Trail. It heads out around the back of Appledurcomb House. Rather hilly, in fact it’s all up hill. But it’s pretty and there are llamas, so worth the effort. I headed up onto the downs, I’d like to say I was running al the way, but that would be a lie.

Once at the top there’s the Worsley monument standing proud over the most beautiful view looking out across the patchwork of the Isle of Wight. From here I headed on with the intention of running towards Stenbury down and on towards Ventnor. But a quick check of my distance showed that I was over 19 miles in. All my earlier meandering had added up the miles. Caroline was originally supposed to pick me up at Carisbrooke, if I went any further that would be wrong. So I turned the other way down what can only be described as a death trap of a hill. Super steep. Very uneven and dry so easy to slip, surrounded on both sides by barbed wire, thorns and bastard nettles. Perfect choice of route.

Massive Anchor Marathon supporters
Massive Anchor Marathon Worsley Monument
Massive Anchor Marathon View from Worsley Monument

Lost again!

By now I was once again well off track. I was just running in directions that I thought looked ok. I decided that I should head towards Chillerton and get picked up there. I could see the mast in the distance so I headed that way, but even with that great big thing to guide me I got lost a couple more times. At one point I was running around a fishing lake for what seemed like ages. No exit to be seen!

I finished in the middle of nowhere on a dirt track that I dare say I will never find again. I was about a mile from Chillerton where I was going to be picked up. I was spinning out, my legs were in agony and I felt sick, but had to trudge on to the pick up point. I’m not a great promotion for marathon running am I?

Massive Anchor Marathon lost by a lake
Massive Anchor Marathon

The best goody bag ever!

Once home, several cold drinks later, Caroline handed me a lovely case. It was very heavy. Inside it was a whole care package. There was a certificate that said congratulations on finishing the inaugural massive anchor marathon. There was food, beer, a book called ‘the loneliness of the long distance runner, vegan jerkie, all sorts. There was even a Milli Vanilli single called Keep on Running! Must have been from Guys personal collection. Of course there was a big heavy anchor with a chain to hang around my neck and to go with it, a hat with an anchor on it and a t shirt with a massive anchor on it. I’ll ignore the insinuation because it really was an extra ordinary treat from my friend Guy Boorman. You may remember him from the South Wight Ballbreaker marathon early in the year.

Guy has been behind organising all of the amazing hand made medals and trophies that I’ve received whilst doing these homegrown marathons. I am so unbelievably grateful for his support, and of course everyone that has taken the time to make me a medal.

Next week I should have been Running the River Meon Valley marathon, but guess what? postponed 🙁

If anyone has any suggestions of a route that I can run, I would be massively grateful.

Massive Anchor Marathon goody bag
Massive Anchor Marathon goody bag
Massive Anchor 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.

Medal 33

33. Not the Edinburgh Marathon

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33. Not the Edinburgh Marathon

May 24th 2020.

Crazy lockdown hair

The cancellations continue and my lockdown hair is going rogue!

This weekend should have been spent exploring Edinburgh and then taking part in the Edinburgh Marathon. I’ve never done this one before and was looking forward to it. It has been postponed to later in the year, so there is still a bit of hope that I’ll get to do it. that being said, I heard that the Dublin marathon has now been cancelled and that should have been October, that now puts the rest of the marathons in this 50 marathon challenge in the firing line!

All of the marathons that have been put back to next year leaves me with a predicament. I’ve paid for the event and in some cases pre-booked travel and accommodation. It comes to a chunk of money. In a few cases I’ve been able to get a refund or partial refund. But in most cases they don’t give refunds, only a place for the new date or the following year.

I won’t lie, really don’t want to do any marathons next year. After this challenge I want to sit and rest, eat pie, take up surfing again, anything but run! So I either lose the money or bite the bullet and run them. Neither are appealing to me.

I do however understand the problem faced by race organisers. The big marathons will bounce back, but I do fear for the smaller races. These are the guys that will suffer and possibly not rebound next year. I hope they do, because they keep a thriving community of runners going throughout the year.

This challenge has included big marathons with thousands of entrants, such as the Athens Marathon, races of a mid range with several hundred entrants, such as Beachy Head. And then there’s the really low key ones that may only have about 50 runners. The Brett Owler Marathon only had about 30 people! They will all be feeling the pinch. I dare say next year’s calendar will be massively reduced.

So asking for my entry fee to be refunded is an ethical dilemma. It’s no one’s fault that we’re in this situation, but someone will lose out. In most cases it has been me, but there have been some who have kindly given me a refund.

Anyway, wasn’t I supposed to be talking about marathon 33, rather than banging on about cancelled races?

Todays route

Todays route

Yesterday was really windy, so I opted to run today. Still windy, but better. I had been given a route suggestion by a friend that seemed ok so that became my plan.

I started from home and yet again headed down the cycle track to Newport. I felt pretty good and was able to keep a steady 8:30 pace. My Achilles were killing me, but generally I felt strong.

From Newport I continued on to Shide to join the Red Squirrel Trail all the way to Sandown. I had previously run this route on marathon 29. It’s a nice flat route that offers some shade and by now it was hot.

Red Squirrel Trail
Red Squirrel Trail
Red Squirrel Trail, Merstone Station

The Coastal Path

It works out about 14 miles into Sandown and I intended to keep my pace at least until I got there. That’s when it all started to go pear shaped.

At Sandown beach I headed west, straight into a strong head wind. It wasn’t long before my pace really started to drop.

Running along the seafront all the way into Shanklin was all flat and, apart from the wind, quite pleasant. There was a lot of people around enjoying the sun and being allowed back to the beach. Generally speaking everyone was observing the safe distance rule. All apart from older people, they seem quite blasé about it! But I won’t go there.

At the end of the seafront the good time’s ended and the hills really kicked in. Firstly up by Shanklin Chine and then once through the old village the beast that is Cowleaze hill looms.

Sandown Beach
between Sandown and Shanklin

The nemesis!

Cowleaze Hill is not for the feint hearted. I’d previously tackled it on marathon 24 and I didn’t like it then, so why I was back to do it again one can only wonder? There was a lady struggling up the hill on her bike, she spurred me on. I had to beat her! Anyone that competes knows that situation. No matter what level you’re at you will always have a nemesis that needs to be crushed.

I always remember a friend of mine telling me about his nemesis the first time we did the London Triathlon. For him it was a fat lad on a mountain bike. My friend had a skinny vest and a pair of Speedos on, and a nice speedy road bike. So there was no way he would be beaten by a fat lad on a mountain bike. I think he was, but I’m not 100% sure on the facts.

So for me, this little old lady struggling up Cowleaze Hill on her sit up and beg bike with a basket on the front suddenly became my mortal enemy and I vowed to leave her in my dust as I shuffled with my tongue hanging out up the beast.

At several points we were neck and neck, which was awkward, we resorted to shrugging our shoulders and giggling uncomfortably at each other. She told me that I was very good at running up hills and that was what I needed to surge past her. I got to the top triumphant only to realise it wasn’t the top, beyond the brow of the hill it continued. My last surge had taken everything I had, which wasn’t much. I had to watch in horror as she instantly passed me with a friendly wave!

Finally at the top I started the descent into Ventnor. But I decided to go down through the Bonchurch Landslip.

For anyone that wants a nice walk, this one is a beauty, it’s like stepping back into prehistoric Ventnor. It is a very steep downhill route, with loads of things to trip up on, so I took it carefully. By now my legs were in pain and weren’t responding as I’d have liked. I took several wrong turns and at points just ended up on a cliff edge looking out to sea, having to backtrack up the hill was no fun.

View from the top of Cowleaze Hill
Bonchurch Landslip
Bonchurch landslip

Bloody hills!

Eventually I negotiated my way out at Bonchurch seafront and back into the howling wind all the way along the coastal path, through Ventnor and on towards Steephill Cove.

I love this place, it reminds of something out of The Goonies. Normally this would be a great place to walk to and have a Coffee from one of the little cafes. Not today, the place was deserted. As the name suggests, there is a very steep hill in and a steep one out. This route seemed like a great idea at the time, but I was suffering.

Beyond Ventnor I followed the under cliff road through St Lawrence. There was a land slide here a while ago, making it impossible to drive all the way through, but good for walking, running and Cycling. The road was empty and shaded. Only the sound of the birds twittering away to keep you company. Under different circumstances this would be lovely, but I was shuffling along so slowly. My legs had long since given up and the familiar spinney feeling was taking over. My legs and fingers were tingling as the blood was going to vital organs. Luckily I was on the final mile.

Between Ventnor and Steephill Cove
Steephill Cove

Where’s a good pub when you need one?

I finished in Niton at the White Lion pub. Craving a drink but everything was closed. Luckily I wasn’t there long before Caroline came to the rescue with a bottle of Lucozade.

So that’s 33 down, only 17 more to go. Will I get to run anywhere else but the Isle of Wight? Who knows. I’m lucky because it is a lovely place to be locked down in, if only it wasn’t so bloody hilly.

Once home Caroline handed me a bag. This is my favourite part of these marathons. The friends that have stepped in with home made medals is such a brilliant boost. Inside the bag was a record sleeve of an album by Santana called Marathon. I pondered over it for a while trying to guess who it was from. I guessed correctly at my friend Wayne Cranwell. His wife Nicola made last weeks amazing medal.

Inside the record sleeve was the record cut into the shape of a 33, to be played at 33 RPM of course. Inspired! Another treasure to the collection of wonderful medals. I owe a lot of beers when we finally come out of this.

Medal 33







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.

Hand made medal for marathon 32

32. Infinity loop

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32. Infinity Loop Marathon

May 17th 2020.

Lockdown hair

Not the Richmond Park Marathon

Today I should have been running around Richmond Park, for the Richmond Park Marathon. But as lockdown continues, so does the cancellation of all mass gatherings. This one has been rescheduled to a date in September that I can’t make, so instead, I ran around the Island for a bit… again!

I feel a bit like a broken record, but there is no movement in the possibility of any races taking place, even the small low key ones. I’d like to think that there may be some of the races that I’ve booked going ahead before this challenge is over, but it’s looking unlikely. The one I really don’t want to miss is the Bruges marathon, it’s not till October so keeping my fingers firmly crossed. Berlin has been canceled and that’s September so October is now very much in the firing line.

So into today’s shuffle about. I’ve called it Infinity loop purely because the route takes on a figure of eight sort of shape, like the infinity symbol (vaguely). Quite appropriate as every one of these marathons feels like it’s taking forever now.

infinity loop route

On route

I left my house at about 8 am. Felt ok. Stuck on the Marathon Talk podcast. For anyone who is keen on running, it’s well worth a listen, especially on long run days. It covers a vast amount of topics around the running/marathon world. I find it keeps my mind off of the pains of running, so it’s a nice distraction and quite inspirational. I keep on thinking about entering myself into #rateyourrun, but I fear I’d just rate it crap and most of the ones they post seem to be 10/10. Never-the-less I do enjoy it.

I was about a mile in when I realised I hadn’t turned on run keeper. Not a problem if you’re just training but if you’re trying to hit a specific distance then it’s a bit of a bugger as no one believes you when you say, “yeah, I just ran a marathon”, but your runkeeper/Strava record says differently. I’m forever pausing it during a run, or just forgetting to put it on in the first place.

The seafront route to Gurnard is always a nice start to a run, nice and flat, and scenic to get those first few warm-up miles. The weather was perfect, hazy sunshine, and slightly cooler than yesterday so I wasn’t going to get sunstroke.

From Gurnard, I ran up Cockleton Lane and joined the main road towards Newport. I wasn’t going to go along the cycle track again but did a last-minute divert down a lane I’ve never been down. I Ended up in somebody’s back yard and then lost in fields of solar panels that I didn’t know were there. I could see the cycle track, but couldn’t get to it. I’m sure I looked like a pheasant darting around a field worried I was going to be shot by an angry farmer!

Lost somewhere between Cowes and Newport
Firestone Copse

The long and winding road

I finally got myself back on track, berated myself for going off track in the first place, and continued through to Newport. From here I went up through Staplers and onto Havenstreet. The first loop went through Firestone Copse. I always love taking the dog for a walk here, it’s nice and peaceful and I figured that it would offer a bit of shade if needed. It wasn’t that sunny, but still nice.

Once through Firestone, I was back onto the main road through Wootton and on to Newport, so exactly the same as last week’s marathon I was about 17 miles in and my pace was dropping rapidly. I remember when I could run a sub 3.30 marathon, so these 4.5 – 5-hour plods are slightly disconcerting. Just being on your feet for so long is a killer.

Once through Newport I headed down Forest Road for the second loop. I was about 20 miles in and just wanted to head back home but it wouldn’t give me the full distance. I continued down Forest road and finally turned back in towards Cowes at Whitehouse Road.

long road at 23 miles
Happy to finish

Another one bites the dust (apologies for the song title sub-headings. I’ve run a marathon, I can’t think)

I always tend to forget how long this last bit is into Cowes, it’s quite windy and hilly. The full distance took me to the bottom end of Rew Street where Caroline and our dog Winnie were waiting for me with a nice cold drink.

The thing that’s really keeping me going is the support from friends, I’m literally bowled over by the messages of support and the amazing medals that people are taking the time to make. This week’s medal was made and beautifully presented, by Nicola Cranwell. Caroline handed me a box tied in ribbon. Inside were layers of pink tissue paper. I thought I was unwrapping lingerie! Inside was a beautiful hand made medal with 32/50 on it, encrusted in shells she’d collected from Thorness bay before we went into lockdown.

Runners do tend to love a bit of bling at the end of an event, but once home they just get thrown into a sock drawer and generally never see the light of day again. These hand made ones will be treasured though and will forever be a memento of this strange time that we find ourselves in.

Who knows when we’ll come out the other side of this? Perhaps we may never get back to what we know as normal. In some ways, I don’t want it to just slide back into the old routine because that was broken anyway. Now we have an opportunity to make a new normal. One that is better and kinder to the world we inhabit.

Running along today and seeing the number of cars on the road again and rubbish thrown on the floor by a park bench after eating a KFC rather than putting it in a bin, I worry that we are just going to fall into our old ways and all of the positive stuff that has actually come out of this period of lockdown will just become a distant memory!

Hand made medal for marathon 32







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.

Marathon 31

31. Another run around the Isle of Wight

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31. Another run around
the Isle of Wight

May 10th 2020.

Marathon 31

Here we go again!

In a parallel universe where Coronavirus wasn’t a thing, I would have been taking part in a marathon called The Ox of Two Halves, but instead I did another run around the Isle of Wight.

As with a lot of the marathons I’d booked in, I was actually looking forward to the Ox of Two Halves. This would’ve been the second White Star Running event. The first being the Larmer Tree Marathon. Today’s marathon would have been on the same course as Larmer Tree, but there was the promise of some surprises along the way! I will never know what those surprises are, unless I run it next year, and I genuinely don’t want to run a marathon next year. Truth be told, I don’t want to run another marathon for as long as I live!

31 marathons in feels a bit like the 16 mile mark in a marathon. Let me clarify that. When you run a marathon you start off, full of energy and an eagerness to get going. You set off and it all feels OK for the first few miles, easy even. 6 miles in and you pass the first quarter still feeling strong. 10 miles and your pace is possibly starting to waiver a bit, getting a few niggles but generally Ok. Halfway and you start to feel it, but the elation of being half way spurs you on. By 16 miles you really are feeling the earlier miles. The excitement you felt at the start has been completely drained out of you, everything is starting to hurt and your brain is playing tricks on you, telling you to stop. But you’ve come this far, only another ten miles to go!

My mind is screaming at me to give it up, tell people you’ve got an injury. Heck, I’ve even considered putting it out there that I have Coronavirus so then I couldn’t possibly continue! The period between 16 miles and the finish, really aren’t much fun. If it were a proper marathon, before all this lockdown happened, I’d be at the stage where the sound of the crowd cheering would start to become irritating. My face would be in a permanent grimace and you die a little when you pass yet another samba band.

Now I must stress, this is my own personal view. I do love the support from the crowd, but the noise is too jarring. I’m sure there are people out there that love all the noise and commotion, keeps them going. But for me, well I struggle and I just want to throttle the kids that are banging those noisy inflatable sausage things together!

So that’s about where I am at the moment, on a scale of 1-10, I’m at ‘meh!’

Todays plan

I didn’t plan anything for this week, I think I was in denial. My last marathon was on Monday and I’m still feeling that. My Achilles is not feeling great. I really didn’t want to get up this morning. But I did. Got my stuff on, chose something to listen too and shoved myself out the door. Yesterday was a blistering hot day, thankfully today was much cooler.

I’m running out of possible routes now to keep it interesting, but a friend had  suggested a route out to Ryde. So that’s what I did. I followed the main road out to Ryde, but between Wootton and Binstead there’s a lane that goes to Quarr Abbey. Here you can join a cycle track that goes all the way in to Ryde, quite a pleasant route.

Once in Ryde I continued running along Appley beach. There’s an old tower/fort that was the half way point, then it was all the way back the way I came.

While running back through the back roads of Wootton I heard a beep behind me. At first I thought it was a work van trying to pass, but then I realised it was the Boorman’s. they had tracked me down to cheer me on. Lovely to see them, I was about 17 miles in and I really appreciated the support. Now that sort of support I like, but had they got out of their van and started performing samba music, that may have been irritating.

I staggered on. I saw them again at the mid point of Wootton hill. Had they not been there I would have walked, but instead I had to run to make it look like I wasn’t crumbling too much. As soon as they were out of sight I walked a bit.

Marathon 31

The run/walk stage

When I get to the point of walking/running, I know I’m not in a good place. This generally comes at the 20 mile mark. That’s the point when my mind is really shouting at me to stop and I have to play mind games to get through it, this generally involves me agreeing with myself on a point that I must run to before I can walk for a short distance.

The last 6 miles took me down to Island Harbour and along the path towards Newport Quay. From the quay it’s 4 miles back to my house. The cycle track is familiar territory. I don’t know how many times I’ve run up and down this path. I’ve even been known to run back home this way from Newport after a night of drinking . Sure I could get a taxi, but nothing beats the thrill of running drunkenly down a pitch black cycle track and an owl swoops down low enough to make you scream just a little bit!

This day however I wasn’t drunk and there were no owls, just me and my own mind games. The finish was along Arctic Road. I do miss crossing a proper finish line and being handed the medal. I really hope that I get a few more official marathons before this challenge is out, I guess we’ll wait and see what happens.

When I got home and once I’d managed to stop the aching in my legs, Caroline handed me a bag with a message from Julie Boorman. ‘A little something to make you smile and lots to boost your sugar’. Inside there were bags of jelly sweets (all vegan) and a lovely medal that said ‘bee happy’. Such a lovely treat to finish on 😊

Marathon 31
Marathon 31







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.

30. I ran solo marathon

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30. I Ran Solo Marathon

May the 4th be with you.

May the fourth be with you

Today’s marathon is the I ran solo marathon. I’ve saved this especially for the 4th of May. May the Fourth will forever be Star Wars day, so for all those geeks out there like me who delight in anything Star Wars related, hope you’re having a great day?

Since the lockdown was first put in place, the marathon season has been cancelled. But out of the ashes there have been numerous virtual runs popping up. This enables the people who have put all the time and energy into training to run a marathon, the opportunity to still run and receive a nice medal at the end. It’s also become a bit of a lifeline to the people who organise the events. After seeing the entire season wiped out, this at least gives them an opportunity to recover some of the money they’ve lost.

I’ve been so lucky to have amazing friends who have been making me medals for each of my runs, so I haven’t needed to do these virtual runs to get my bling fix and what I’ve received is so much more special. All that being said, when I saw a post about a virtual marathon called ‘I ran solo’ and the accompanying medal is Han Solo in carbonite, I was straight onto booking it. This virtual marathon is organised by Phoenix Running. Early in the Challenge I did one of their actual marathons ‘the Phoenix Riverside Marathon’. I’ve been holding on to this medal for an appropriate time and I think May the Fourth is that time.

Originally I was booked in to do the Three Forts Challenge, yesterday. This has obviously been cancelled, expected to take place again on the 2nd May 2021. My place has been carried forward to next year. I held back a day so I could run today. But I wanted to still give a nod to the Three Forts Challenge. Once again I consulted Google Maps and Map my Run to come up with a route that would include me visiting 3 forts along the way. As luck would have it, the Isle of Wight is literally full of forts, so it wasn’t tricky.

I set out at about 8:30am. The weather was a bit damp and grey, which is actually perfect for running, not too warm like the previous few weeks. I headed out along Newport Road out of Cowes and then along Forest Road and down Gunville Road into Carisbrooke. My first fort would be the ultimate Isle of Wight fort, Carisbrooke Castle. Carisbrooke Castle has been standing guard over Carisbrooke for over 1000 years. Please note, I failed History at school so this may not be accurate, but it’s close enough.

The Tennyson Trail

I didn’t hang around at Carisbrooke Castle for long, quick selfie and then onwards to my next fort. For this I would need to be in Freshwater (again). I’m not particularly good at finding my way around the footpaths and bridleways of the Island so there was a bit of running around aimlessly in fields for a while before I found a bridle way towards Bowcombe. I knew this was vaguely in the right direction so I trotted on quite happily. This was actually a really nice route. At one point I needed to cross a road before going up a nasty hill that I remember well from the Abominable Snowman at the end of last year.

By now I was onto the Tennyson Trail. Familiar territory, but always quite a pleasant route. Not great if you like your marathons flat though. But the stunning views along the coastline make the effort worthwhile.

The Tennyson trail eventually comes out at a golf course in Freshwater. Luckily no one was playing golf so no need to dodge low flying golf balls.

Once into Freshwater I needed to find my next fort. Never actually been to this one before so finding it would be interesting.

Fort Albert

Fort Albert was built in the 19th Century to defend against the possibility of a French attack from Napoleon III. It is now privately owned and converted into apartments. It stands opposite Hurst Castle. I remember it well from a previous challenge, when I swam from Hurst Castle to Colwell Bay. I always wondered what it was. I managed to get close enough to take a sneaky picture, but it is private so couldn’t get too close.

From here it was a short stagger to my final fort. I took the coastal path from Fort Albert. It wasn’t too long before I found myself in the Fort Victoria Country Park. This was such a nice area to ramble around. The sun was out and the birds were singing. I was about 20 miles in so was feeling pretty rubbish, but still enjoyed running through the woods.

Fort Victoria

Fort Victoria was built in the 1850s. It remained in use until 1962. Parts of the fort were subsequently demolished, and what remains has become part of Fort Victoria Country Park. I remember going there as a kid to eat ice cream.

Now all was left was to run the final few miles to get picked up by Caroline somewhere between Yarmouth and Shalfleet. I’d done my usual trick and paused my running app somewhere along the line so wasn’t really sure of the exact distance, but i already had an idea of where I needed to stop, plus it really felt like a marathon. Happy as always to stop 😊

Once home, not only did I finally get my I ran solo medal, but also a brilliant hand made medal from Nerys, Adam and Pru Provis. It followed a theme that Comes from their comments to my runs, Wonder Woman. Love it. In fact it has inspired an idea. I will run my 40th marathon dressed as Wonder Woman if I can get to beyond £1500 in donations (£2000 if possible). It may also work if enough people donate so that I don’t run in Wonder Woman costume. Either way, your donations are appreciated. Just comment if you want me to run as Wonder Woman, or if you’d rather not and I will do whatever the consensus is on the 40th.

Only 20 more to go, piece of cake 😐







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.

29. Not the Southampton Marathon

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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

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.