The finish

43. Ventnor Fringe / Stella Star Marathon


50/50 marathons

43. Ventnor Fringe / Stella Star Marathon

2nd August 2020.


The start

This week should have seen the Ventnor Fringe taking place, but of course, it’s yet another casualty of 2020. So it was suggested that I could do a Ventnor Fringe Marathon. Fine in principle, but one of the noticeable features of Ventnor is that it is very hilly, so I wanted to avoid doing laps around Ventnor, that would be ridiculous. so I plotted a route from Cowes that would cut through the centre of the Island and then finish with a lap around Ventnor.

It’s been quite warm over the past few days, so to avoid a repeat of the Wonder Woman Dash, I set off at 7 am when it was a bit cooler. I started with a nice seafront run to Gurnard, I never tire of this route. In Gurnard, I was joined by Guy on his bike. He brought his drone along to try and get some footage. It was great to have him along. We went down the cycle track and then continued on the track from Shide. I have done this route many times, but I do appreciate the flat, traffic-free path. Guy zoomed off ahead to get the drone fired up. I caught up with him around Merstone station. It’s really quite lovely around there at the moment, the cornfields look great.

en route to Ventnor

Guy stayed with me to ensure I found the correct path that would take me in the direction I needed to go. For some reason, this turn off has been somewhat elusive to me, so I always miss it and end up running to Sandown instead. Once I was pointed in the right direction he headed back home, leaving me at the start of the Worsley Trail.

I’ve used this route before, most recently on the Monumental Marathon. It’s a nice route but the hills are relentless and quite steep. The trail goes up behind Appledurcombe and onto Stenbury Down. Right at the top is the Worsley monument and a beautiful panoramic view of the Isle of Wight. Last time I was here it was difficult to see a few feet in front of me, but today I was treated to the Isle of Wight in all its finery.

I didn’t dwell up here, it was pretty windy and I was keen to push on. On my way down the fields were full of sheep. I came across an unfortunate sheep with its head stuck in the wire fence. Poor bugger looked like it had been there for a while. I managed to stretch the wire enough for it to go free. It looked most disgruntled.

Stenbury down

From here I continued passed Nettlecombe farm, through Whitwell and then on to Niton. I wanted to tie in a visit to St Catherine’s Lighthouse as part of the route. I’ve always liked this part of the Island. I like walking the dog down there and finishing off in the Budle pub. No pub today though. I ran around the lighthouse and then back up into the road towards St Lawrence.

In 2014 there was a landslide from the undercliff that blocked the route between Niton and Ventnor. It has since been opened up for walkers or cyclists. The road itself is an idyllic route for running, picturesque, and traffic-free, a joy on a nice day like today. The surrounding fauna has taken over so the roadside is fringed by Buddleias. Loads of bees and butterflies, lovely.

St Catherines Lighthouse

Once through St Lawrence, I just needed to go around Ventnor before heading to the finish point. Sounds easy. Nope. As mentioned earlier, Ventnor is seriously hilly. With only a couple of miles to go and legs really feeling the distance, I made the mistake of going up a road called Seven Sisters Road. I should have known from the name that it wouldn’t be nice. My last attempt at running the Seven Sisters was at the Endurancelife Sussex Marathon, the last proper marathon before lockdown wiped the whole year out. Obviously this wasn’t the same, but the name should have given me a clue.

Originally the plan was to finish at Ventnor Exchange, the home of the Fringe festival,  but it was closed, so my finish was at the bandstand in Ventnor Park. It was lovely to see Caroline and a group of friends there waiting to cheer me in, such a boost. I actually didn’t feel too bad for a change and was happy to sit around and just chat.

Caroline gave me a package to open, it’s like Christmas every Sunday 😊. Inside was a plaque with a painting of our dog Winnie’s mother, Stella. She sadly passed away a year after we got Winnie, such a lovely dog. On the back, it said ‘Stella Star Marathon 43 August 2020’. This is such a nice personal gift. This was from Ben Sullivan. There was also a letter from him, I know the Charity Mind is important to him. Thank you Ben, this was such a thoughtful thing to do. There were also some beers that came along with this, very nice. I will enjoy those.

Light at the end of the tunnel

Another one down. Only 7 more to go! Still seems a lot, but then 1 marathon is enough. But I definitely feel that I’ll complete the challenge now. Famous last words, I’ll probably break a leg next week!!! There is still hope that a couple of the marathons I had booked in will still take place. The New Forest Marathon still plans to go ahead if they can get the final approval. The Bath Two Tunnels marathon, once canceled, they now have the approval to go ahead, so they just need enough runners to make it worthwhile. Quite excited as I honestly thought everything would be canceled.

I’m so pleased to see the donations for Mind on my Just Giving page are now at £3,126! This is amazing. I’d love to try and get to £5000 before this challenge is out.

The finish
Stella medal
Stella

For Stella and Paddy xxx

5.00

Time

2,354ft

Elevation

2,769

Calories

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.


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
medal
Medal
Finishers beer

4.52

Time

1,297ft

Elevation

3,261

Calories

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 😳

4.14

Time

982ft

Elevation

2,750

Calories

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.


St Catherine's Oratory

38. Monumental Marathon


50/50 marathons

38. Monumental Marathon

27th June 2020.


Viewpoint carpark Blackgang

Another week shoots by and I’m back to the Groundhog Day of running another marathon. I was originally going to be running around Devon this weekend for the North Devon Marathon. I’ve had this one tucked up my sleeve for a rainy day and today was indeed a rainy and particularly windy day.

A friend of mine had sent me a route a little while back, that had been dubbed ‘monumental’. It was a route that circled around the southeast of the Isle of Wight and passed a few monuments along the way. I used this as the basis of today’s route but did it point to point rather than as a loop.

I had visited the Tennyson monument on a couple of marathons already, ‘not the Brighton marathon’ and ‘the South Wight Ballbreaker’, so I didn’t need to tackle that hill again, besides, the route I had mapped out looked likely to be the hilliest marathon yet!

Monumental Marathon Route

St Catherine’s Oratory

My run started at the viewpoint car park, just above Blackgang. From there a footpath leads you up onto St Catherine’s down and the first monument. Also an opportunity to catch my breath from the first hill.

Known locally as ‘the pepper pot’, St Catherine’s Oratory is one of the Island’s more famous landmarks. It looks like an ancient rocket standing tall overlooking the beautiful south Wight coastline. According to English Heritage, ‘It is likely that the oratory, completed in 1328, was erected by Walter de Godeton, a local landowner who was condemned by the Church for stealing casks of wine from a shipwreck which had occurred in 1314 off Chale Bay’.

It turns out the wine belonged to the church, so they were a bit miffed and threatened him with excommunication unless he built a lighthouse above the site of the shipwreck. The lighthouse was manned by a priest, who would keep the flame burning and also hold masses there. Not technically a monument, but I like it. It’s also the site of a Bronze Age burial site.

St Catherine's Oratory
St Catherine's Oratory

The Hoy Monument

So ok, St Catherine’s Oratory May not be a monument, but if you continue a bit further along St Catherine’s down, you can’t miss the Hoy Monument. As monuments go, this one is a massive erection! It’s very tall, 72 feet to be exact. It’s also known as the Alexandrian Pillar. Michael Hoy, a successful Russian merchant, had the monument erected to commemorate the visit to Britain, in 1814, of ‘His Imperial Majesty Alexander the 1st, Emperor of all the Russias’. Sadly the Tsar never came to the Isle of Wight, apparently, the ferry fare was too expensive!

On a sunny day, the view from the monument would be amazing, but today was grey, very wet and windy, so visibility was pretty awful. On my way down a rather steep hill from the monument, I slipped and had a bit of a tumble. I landed with a crunch on the base of my spine and somehow managed to twist my leg in a very awkward manner. I lay on the floor for a while feeling somewhat dazed. Once up, I cursed my choice of footwear. Why did I not wear trail shoes? I’d forgotten how challenging it can be running downhill on a slippy surface. Needless to say, I continued a lot more gingerly.

Hoy monument
Hoy monument

The Worsley Monument

The route I’d plotted was pretty much entirely Trail, with a light sprinkling of quiet roads. But all in all, it was proving to be quite a beautiful route, even in the rain.

The next monument of the route was the Worsley monument. I’d previously visited it on marathon 34, this time I was approaching from a different direction, but it still didn’t make the climb up to the top of Stenbury Down any easier. Running isn’t really an option. It’s a case of walk or crawl, but once at the top you are blessed with a stunning panorama of the Isle of Wight in all it’s glory… only not today! I was buffeted by the wind and could see about 2 meters in front of me, at least I could see if any rogue ramblers came too close. Social distancing was maintained, I didn’t see a soul.

The Worsley monument was erected in 1774 by Sir Richard Worsley in memory of Sir Robert Worsley of Appuldurcombe House. The monument was struck by lightning in 1831 and partially demolished. It remained in that state until it was repaired in 1983, only not to its original height.

Worsley monument
Worsley monument

The Yarborough Monument

From Godshill, I had the joy of the longest section of the run, towards the jolly unpleasant hill that goes up to Culver Down. I wanted to avoid the main roads through Lake and Sandown, so all the route was trail. There was a nice section that went through America Woods. Obviously I got lost, but that’s part of the fun right? In fact, this marathon was more of an orienteering route. I spent so much time just trying to figure out which way I should be going, so it was a bit on the slow side.

I passed right through Sandown golf course. There were loads of people out playing, I had to keep my eyes open for any random golf balls heading in my direction.

The Yarborough Monument stands 75 feet tall and is perched right on the top of Culver down. However, this was not its original site. It was originally built on the summit of Bembridge down but was painstakingly removed and rebuilt in its current location in the 1860s to make way for Bembridge fort. The monument was built in memory of the Earl of Yarborough, Charles Anderson Pelham. Quite a prominent figure on the Island in his time, he was one of the founders of The Royal Yacht Squadron. His son was known for having a bit of a gambling habit and is where the term a Yarborough in bridge is derived from after he bet ridiculous odds on a rubbish hand.

Culver cliff
Yarborough monument
Yarborough monument
Field of gold

Ashey Seamark

From here I had just one more monument to see, so I headed down from Culver and ran back the way I came and through Brading. I needed to climb up Brading down and head towards Ashey.

I’d seen this strange triangular structure many times as I drove along Ashey Road, but I’d never seen it up close and I had no clue what it was, so I thought that now would be a good chance to take a look.

Ashey Seamark is on the summit of Ashey Down. It is a triangular structure erected in 1735 during the reign of George II by the Trinity Board, and guides the navigation into St. Helen’s Road at Spithead.

So now I know. Not quite as impressive as I’d hoped, but the cows that surrounded it looked quite happy with it and were quite perplexed by my appearance.

Ashey Seamark
Ashey Seamark

All I needed to do now was run to Havenstreet where Caroline was waiting to pick me up. The last few miles didn’t seem as bad as previous marathons, but I was taking my time so that probably helped. A combination of not knowing where I was going, big bloody hills and pains everywhere, kept me from breaking any records today. But it made it more pleasant, not a word I’d normally associate with marathons, but in this case, it was quite enjoyable to explore and visit some monuments along the way.

Once at home, Caroline handed me a white box. Inside was a crown made of olive. This little beauty was made by Craig Ratcliff, a very talented landscape designer, he has a company called CAR Gardens, so it seemed fitting for him to make this. He told me that Olive crowns were originally presented to the Greek Olympians. The crowns would be laid upon a gold table before presenting to the Olympians. He had lined the box in gold and it had the number 38 cut into the lining and some of the leaves. Bloody genius, I love it. Could have done with it after the Athens Marathon.

Olive crown
olive crown

5.37

Time

8,847ft

Elevation

3,017

Calories

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.


Edible medal

37. Father's Day Marathon


50/50 marathons

37. Father's Day Marathon

21st June 2020.


Going across on the floating bridge

After finishing a marathon I’m generally in a completely drained state, a bit like one of those pink bunnies that don’t have Duracell batteries. I sit in bed wrapped in a blanket, trying to warm up, sipping on water. It’s never a pretty sight. But that’s where I am right now, dog by my side trying to figure out where to start on this week’s journal entry.

Today is Father’s Day, it’s also the summer solstice, so I had two options for where to go for today’s route. Option 1, to plot a route that would take me back through my journey as a father. Option 2, to run to Mottistone Long Stone for the dawn of the summer solstice. The problem with option 2 is that the forecast was terrible for early morning and the likelihood of seeing a sunrise was pretty slim. Plus it would mean a really early start and  I wasn’t keen on that idea.

So as a compromise I thought I’d get up early and do a Father’s Day route. The alarm shattered my sleep at about 6. It was pouring down, so I went back to sleep and woke up with a jolt at 8 am.

My route required me to go across on the floating bridge from west to East Cowes, so I checked the Floaty Finder App only to find that it wasn’t running! So I hastily replotted the route via the cycle track. I tried a few times but couldn’t make it the correct route. I did a quick double-check of the Floaty, only to see it was running now. The original plan back on.

Once at the Floaty, I was told that it was now compulsory to wear masks! I’d completely forgotten. Luckily a kind lady gave me a mask to wear, so I was back on track.

Marathon 37 Route

The route

My route needed to go out towards Ryde as this was where my journey as a father started. Sadly it wasn’t a smooth journey. My first location was Ashey Cemetery. Our son Zak was born on the 15th of January 1993. I’d literally just graduated and had recently started working for a small design agency. That year turned out to be the worst year of my life and has had a massive effect on me ever since. Our son died that September of a rare genetic disorder. I find it hard to visit the cemetery, so I haven’t been there for a while. But I wanted to go today.

The cemetery is in a peaceful location, out of the way from everything, overlooked by Brading down. No noise, other than the sound of bird song and the occasional passing train from Havenstreet. Though not today. As I ran closer I felt a tightness in my chest, concerned by what state I would find. It had been such a long time since we were last there. Life gets in the way. I didn’t need to worry as nature had taken over. The cemetery was full of beautiful wildflowers.

Me, Caroline and Zak
Me and Zak
Ashey

From Ashey I needed to head back to Newport. My route took me through the most beautiful countryside, through the hills and fields. I hadn’t run this way before and I was pleased to do it. Do you ever sit in a car and look out at the countryside and wonder what it would be like to just get out and explore? I do quite often, so it’s great to actually be doing it.

Once over Brading down, I headed down an overgrown path that would come out at Arreton. I did the usual bumbling around in fields trying to find my route. At one point a baby fox crossed my path. I froze so that I could watch it for a while.

Once through Arreton I found a path that would take me up to St George’s Down. This route was turning into something rather nice, the sun was shining and the Isle of Wight really was looking amazing.

poppies

The next destination to get to was our first house in Newport. We bought it for £34,000 and spent a few years doing it up. This was where we had our beautiful daughter Ella. Well, she wasn’t born there, but where she spent her first year. She was born in the maternity ward at St Mary’s on the 22nd of November 2000.

By now I was starting the usual struggles of running a marathon, hampered more by a bad back, this was slow going. The hills of the Isle of Wight don’t let up though. I pushed on up Horsebridge Hill towards Northwood where my next location was. Northwood Primary School. Ella started at the nursery there before moving into the main school. It was such a lovely little school for her to start at, and she often says how much she enjoyed her time there.

31 Clarence Road
St Mary's Hospital Maternity Ward
Northwood Primary school

I was at about 18 miles by this point and still needed to make up some distance rather than just heading straight back into Cowes, although that was very tempting. So my route went down Pallance Lane and then up Rew Street towards Gurnard. My friend Guy had offered to join me as I passed his house. He greeted me with a cup of water, which was like nectar as I’d managed to drink all the water I was carrying. I’d like to say we ran the last few miles at a good pace, but I was done, so we slowly shuffled along and chatted. It was so good to have him along for the support and for the company.

My next stop was to go and see my own Dad. I couldn’t do a run like this without doing that. This whole lockdown thing hasn’t been easy on him. He’s missing the pub 😊

The last few miles went along the seafront into Cowes. We were amazed by the number of people out and about. A complete contrast to a couple of weeks ago. Once at the Parade I needed to make a stop at Slab Fudge, the best fudge shop on the Island, if not the world. Not to buy fudge, but to see my daughter Ella. She’s working there while not at University. I know every father says they have the best kids, but she really is brilliant. We’re so proud of the woman she’s become. Clever, courteous, and funny, with strong opinions and beliefs. She’s impossible to argue with because she always wins, and she’s great company. It’s been nice having her back from Brighton, spending lockdown at home. I think it’ll hit us when she goes back for a new term.

Me and my Dad
Me and Ella
Me and Ella

Guy stuck with me until I was back home and then continued on to hopefully have a better run. At home, I was greeted by the dog and Caroline put a paper crown on my head and passed me a little black box. I love the intrigue of these medals from friends. I opened it up, inside was a brilliant homemade biscuit medal with a very flattering portrait of me iced on the top. This one was courtesy of the lovely Jaime and Ollie Bennet. They have a Vegan restaurant called Tansy’s Pantry. The food is amazing, so this was a real treat to tuck into. It didn’t last long and tasted amazing 😋

Edible medal

5.00

Time

2,166ft

Elevation

3,052

Calories

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.


Seaclose Park

36. The Isle of Wight Festival Trail Marathon


50/50 marathons

36. The Isle of Wight Festival Trail Marathon

14th June 2020.


The start selfie

This weekend was originally planned to be one of my allocated weekends off. I’d set aside 2 weekends in the year to not run. The first because of the Isle of Wight Festival. And the second in July for the Rhythm Tree Festival. I find running marathons and going to festivals generally don’t work well together! But of course, both these events have been canceled, no surprises there. 2020 is rapidly turning in to the year that never was.

I could obviously stick to the plan and have a break, lord knows I need it after last week’s marathon. If I did I would still be on track to complete the challenge within the year. I did have a forced break earlier in the year when Storm Ciara put a stop to everything. Apart from that, it’s been a marathon every week since the first one on October 6th last year.

Instead of taking the weekend off, I decided to do a little trail that would take in the sites of each of the Isle of Wight Festivals. Kind of like a pilgrimage to each of these sacred sites. In 1968, the first festival happened at Ford Farm near Godshill. In 1969 it was Woodside Bay near Wootton. And then in 1970 (the year I was born), Afton Down near Freshwater. And then the current site, Seaclose Park in Newport. I’ve plotted a route that should visit each of these sites, or as near as possible.

For the early part of my life on the Isle of Wight, the festival didn’t exist. It was simply one of those mythical happenings from the past that seems unbelievable that it actually happened. I couldn’t imagine how amazing it must have been to see the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, and The Doors, right here on my doorstep. But, following the festival in 1970, an act was put in place that would put a stop to mass gatherings of over 5000 people. This act and the reluctance of some of the Island’s older population was a big buzz kill for most of my formative years. There were several attempts to resurrect the festival, but nothing that ever stuck, or came anywhere close. Until 2002.

John Giddings is our savior

2002 was the first year of the newly resurrected festival. Organised by John Giddings, this had the promise to be the real deal. I clearly remember the anticipation that surrounded the build-up beforehand. Rock Island was a one-day festival held at Seaclose Park. For the first time, since 1970, we were to be treated to some world-class acts playing live on our little Island. The lineup didn’t blow me away, but it was certainly not to be missed. the Charlatans, Robert Plant, Starsailor, and The Coral were the main acts. It was a brilliant day. It was nowhere near capacity, so it had a very laid back atmosphere. I clearly remember being sat to the right of the main stage and watching Robert Plant do his thing, thinking how amazing, that’s Robert Plant up there and I haven’t had to pay a fortune in travel to see him.

Fast forward 18 years and we have been lucky enough to have seen most of the world’s biggest bands and musicians, right here on the Island. The Isle of Wight Festival is now a firm fixture amongst a now very busy, festival calendar.

It’s easy to forget how lucky we are to have this festival. I often think it’s taken for granted. Missing it this year has given me time to reflect on exactly that. Each year we wait in anticipation towards the end of the year when the lineup begins to be announced. Some years you get lucky and see a favourite or two on the list, some years there’s just nothing that floats your boat. Either way, you are guaranteed to see something that you’ll be blown away by.

I can only imagine how disappointing it must be for the organisers when they finally announce the headliners and they just get a cool reception on social media. It must feel like an impossible task. One year you get a rock legend like Paul McCartney and people complain because he’s over the hill (apparently), then another year you get someone like the Chemical Brothers and people complain because surely they’re not a festival act? You can never please everyone.

I’ve only ever missed one year, 2013. I’ve regretted it ever since. Ok, I may not like Bon Jovi, but it’s still Bon Jovi, in my back yard. I’ve vowed not to miss another, because I know that, even if I don’t like the headliners, I’m guaranteed to find something on the other stages and I always find a band that I’ve never heard of who then turn out to be a new favourite. Apart from the music, it’s just a great excuse to drink far too much in a field with friends, and I’m really missing that this year. So, as some form of conciliation, I thought I’d do a run that would pay homage to the Isle of Wight Festival.

The route

The route

I’d plotted the route out numerous times, but it always came in over 28 miles and I really don’t want to run further than I need to. I had hoped to be able to go over on the floating bridge to East Cowes and start there, but I needed to lose a couple of miles, so I coaxed Caroline out of bed to give me a lift.

Wootton, the second Isle of Wight Festival – 1969

I started in Whippingham and headed down through Brocks Copse. This comes out in Wootton at a road that leads down to Woodside Bay. This was the site of the second Isle of Wight festival in 1969. Bob Dylan was a major coup for the organisers as he chose the Isle of Wight over Woodstock. Thousands of people flocked from all over the world to see him play. Also on the lineup was Free, Joe Cocker, Family, the Moody Blues among many others. Although the Beatles never played here, some of them turned up to see Bob Dylan. I was expecting to see some kind of plaque or sign to say where it was, but I ended up running around paths and taking pictures of random fields in the hope I was in the right area.

Woodside Wooton
Woodside, Wooton
Woodside Wooton

Seaclose Park, Newport – the current festival location

My daughter had put together a brilliant Isle of Wight Festival playlist on Spotify, of some of the past festival acts. I was loving listening to it as I continued on to Newport. It reminded me of the huge variety of bands that have played over the years.

My next location was the current site of the festival, Seaclose Park. The approaching fields are left overgrown, full of sheep. Rather than the usual hordes of revelers. Running up into the main field felt quite strange. Normally you’d be greeted by a wall of sound and a visual feast of bars, food stalls, amusement rides, and of course, the main stage looming over swathes of people. Instead, I saw a couple of people walking dogs and a vast empty space.

I’ve lost count of the amazing bands that have graced the main stage and the surrounding other stages. I’ve been spoilt. So many memories yet I find myself forgetting some. The playlist acted as a great reminder of just how spoilt we have been. I brought a can of lager and cracked it open to toast the festival organisers and all those memories. It was 10 am, is that too early for a beer? It felt good.

Seaclose Park
Seaclose park

Ford Farm, near Godshill – the site of the first Festival in 1968

I couldn’t dwell too much at Seaclose, the clock was ticking and I had 2 more sites to get to. I plowed on towards Godshill to see where it all started. The first festival, organised by Ron and Ray Foulk, took place on 31 August – 1st September 1968. The Headliners were Jefferson Airplane.

Other big names in the line up were Arthur Brown, The Pretty Things, Plastic Penny, Smile, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Fairport Convention. About 10,000 people attended. Once again I came to a field at Ford Farm and blindly took a photo, hoping that it wasn’t too far off of the correct location, there was no sign so it’s difficult to say, unless you were there. I feel like there should be something put in place to commemorate these festival sites as a big part of Isle of Wight heritage.

FordFarm Lane
Ford Farm

Afton Down – the site of the 1970 festival

I didn’t linger at Ford Farm as I was getting strange looks from a lady who I presume lives there. Besides I had the biggest chunk of the run, from Ford Farm all the way to Freshwater. So far my route planning had been fairly solid, apart from getting lost in a field and being shouted at by a farmer to get off his land. I scuttled off back in the direction I’d come from.

The route towards Freshwater was mainly tiny little roads, so was nice and quiet, allowing me to sing along to the playlist, safe in the knowledge that no one could hear me. I feel bad for the poor cows and sheep that might have been subjected to my tuneless warblings.

Once through Shorwell I took a turn that would take me up onto Tennyson Trail. The hill was relentless and drained every drop of energy that might have been there. It was a route into the trail that I’d never done before, hard work, but as always with this trail, worth the climb.

between Ford Farm and Freshwater
tennyson trail

Once up at the top I settled into the last few miles along this familiar route, in fact, I’ve lost count of the times that I’ve run it. The thing to keep in mind with the Tennyson Trail is that it’s not flat. It’s what you might describe as undulating. So where there’s a down, there is an up to hurt that little bit more. It was slow going.

Along my way towards Freshwater, I passed a dead lamb, not the best way to finish up a run, but it did give me an excuse to utter the immortal words ‘are you the farmer?’ The poor unsuspecting man the comment was aimed at clearly had never seen Withnail and I, he wasn’t the farmer, but assured me he would pass on my message about the lamb.

My run finished up at the golf course in Freshwater. I looked out over Afton Down and tried to imagine what it must have looked like. This event was held between 26 and 30 August 1970. Attendance has been estimated by the Guinness Book of Records to have been 600,000 or even 700,000! The lineup was a who’s who of the biggest acts of the time. Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, Chicago, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, the Who! The list goes on. My God, it must have been a sight.

But this was the straw that broke the camels back and put an end to proceedings, until 2002.

I still had a walk to get to Freshwater Bay where Caroline was waiting. I tried to find a better view over Afton but was shouted at by a man playing golf. Fair point, I didn’t want to end the day with a golf ball to the head.

Before leaving Freshwater, I had one more stop. There’s a place called Dimbola Lodge where a statue of Jimi Hendrix stands in commemoration of the 1970 festival, I had to get a selfie.

Once home I was handed a medal, this time supplied by my very own Dad, from an event I didn’t even know he’d done. A nice little treat to end this 36th marathon. Thanks Dad ☺️

Afton Down
On the way to Freshwater
Dimbola Lodge, Jimi Hendrix statue
Medal time

Thanks for the memories

So, to John Giddings and your team who work tirelessly each year to curate a weekend of incredible music and memories that last a lifetime. You’ve been missed this year and I, for one, am looking forward to next year and many more years to come.

Cheers.

Seaclose Park

5.06

Time

2,201ft

Elevation

3,194

Calories

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 35, view from the top of the downs

35. The Roughest Runner Marathon


50/50 marathons

35. The Roughest Runner Marathon

7th June 2020.


Marathon 35, me and Caroline at the start

I’m getting a bit paranoid, last week was the Massive Anchor Marathon, now this week it’s the Roughest Runner Marathon! The name this week comes from the lovely Tracey and Mark Wozencroft. I’m assuming that they mean roughest as something that is a bit badass, rather than a comment on my appearance? Lockdown hasn’t been kind so it may well be the later. I won’t dwell on it 😳

Today I should have been running the River Meon Marathon, organised by Rural Running. You guessed it, canceled. This week the cancellations continued. An event called The Hampshire Hoppit can now only be run as a virtual marathon, or run in next year’s event. I was quite looking forward to this as it sounded like a good one, well, as good as any marathon can be anyway. I’m just watching them all get canceled. Now the ones that had been postponed until later in the year are also starting to get canceled. Not much hope for any organised marathons taking place this year.

I have spent this entire week continuing the head in the sand tactic, completely in denial that I had to run another marathon at the weekend. I’ve actually been feeling quite low about the whole thing, but it’s likely that could be caused by a heap of different things. Take your pick, there’s the whole Coronavirus lockdown thing, that’s affecting people in ways we never imagined, on top of that the way certain influential people are making up the rules as they go along without consequences. Our business, like untold many, has been massively affected. The craziness of the racial tension following the brutal killing of George Floyd. It’s unbelievable that after so many years we still find ourselves in a world where racism is still very much on the agenda! The list goes on. This is nothing to do with running of course, but these things affect people massively. For some people, it’s like water off a ducks back. For others, myself included, it’s very hard to not be affected, so it’s been one of those weeks.

The dark passenger (not in a weird Dexter way!)

Running these marathons for Mind has been a very personal journey. In some ways running a marathon is like living with depression, bear with me here, I don’t mean to get all somber, but I feel it’s relevant.

Some days you run and feel fine, for a while at least. But ultimately you get to the point where you feel that you can’t carry on. Your brain becomes the enemy and starts playing all sorts of tricks with you. ‘Give up, it’s easy’. ‘You’re rubbish, look at you shuffling along, it’s pathetic to look at’. ‘Go on, stop, sit down there on the grass and lie down. The pain will stop if you just give up’. But ultimately the aim is to carry on, run past that, ignore the demons as best you can because eventually, they will become quiet. For a little while at least. Until the next time, and there is always a next time.

For me running is a defense, it helps. Everyone has a thing that they do and it’s so important to have that thing, whatever it is, especially in the weirdness of now. You may not even realise how much things affect you, until one day you just don’t want to get up. The simplest things become impossible and you feel completely on your own. The thing is, you’re never on your own. If I’ve learned one thing from this marathon challenge is that I have an amazing circle of family and friends there to pick me up when I need it. Without that, I wouldn’t be here at marathon 35. The work that Mind is doing to support people when they need it is crucial, especially now, so I’m proud that I can do this to help them.

Well, that escalated!

So, today I went for a run. A familiar route, but it wasn’t bad. And an added bonus was that the ever-supportive Guy Boorman joined me on his bike for the first 9 miles. Could have done with it at the end but that could go wrong, let me elaborate.

A few years back I was running the Isle of Wight Marathon and was actually doing ok. 20 miles in and I was averaging a good pace that could give me a sub 3:30 finish. The last 6 miles to go and the pace obviously dropped off. Guy pulled up alongside me at about Porchfield and I remember just feeling empty, I had nothing left in the tank, even with Guy there to support me. I got to Bunts Hill and just couldn’t go any further, 4 miles to the finish but I knew I had to stop. To cut a long story short, I ended up being rushed to hospital in an ambulance, I was completely unresponsive. I spent the afternoon on a drip! Not much fun, but I know that it shook Guy a bit, so probably best that he joined me at the start when I feel Ok.

Marathon 35, me and Guy

Where was I?

Today’s route went out along the seafront to Gurnard and on towards Newport via Rew Street and Nokes Common. A quick cut in towards Parkhurst Prison and up Camphill. From here we joined Forest Road for a bit before turning towards Carisbrooke. There’s a little road called Nodgham Lane that leads to a path that keeps going up until you find yourself on the downs. Guy left me at this point to continue his cycle at a better pace.

Downs Lane is a long uphill trail, it’s just a slog, but once at the top and heading along the Tennyson trail towards Brighstone, it makes the slog worthwhile. This is where the Isle of Wight shows you what it’s got. Beauty in abundance, rolling hills, and a patchwork of greens. In the distance, the white cliffs of freshwater surrounded by a sea so blue that it looks unreal.

Marathon 35, climbing up onto the Tennyson Trail
Marathon 35, Poppies on the Tennyson Trail
Marathon 35, Tennyson Trail

I came off the downs and headed past Chessell Pottery and headed on towards Shalfleet. The route that I’d plotted took me out along some quiet Lanes rather than along the main road. I diverted slightly to follow what looked like a footpath towards Shalfleet, only to find that it was really overgrown with nettles, thorns and God knows what else to spike and scratch me.

Nevertheless, I plowed one. I got to an impasse and then ran around like an idiot trying to find a route out. By now I was about 19 miles in and, you guessed it, I was done. After lots of backtracking, swearing, and pleading with my phone to show me another route, I saw a gate. There was hope. The only thing is there was a huge pile of black bags full of manure to negotiate! I climbed over it and found the path.

Onwards towards Shalfleet and home

If anyone has taken part in the Isle of Wight Marathon you’ll be familiar with these last 6 miles. Through Porchfield, up the notorious Bunts Hill. Legs like lead, you trudge uphill and down, followed by a few more hills until you reach the final barrier, Pallance Road. This hill never stops. It’s not necessarily steep, but it sure does sting.

My route finished nearly at the top of Pallance, where yet again I was saved by Caroline to avoid walking the last couple of miles home. 35 down. Only 15 more to go. Woo🎈 (that’s the party I promised myself last week!)

At home, Caroline handed me a gold box with a collage of dubious photos of me on top and the words ‘Neils Marathon survival kit – from the Wozzers’. The Wozzers being the ever-lovely Mark and Tracey Wozencroft. Inside was everything I need to sort me out post-marathon. Can of beans, a big pack of vegan crisps that were very yum. Ibuprofen, massage oil, and an alcoholic muscle rub that was basically Sambuca. There was even some new elastic to stop my shorts from falling down. However, even after doing 35 marathons, I’m only half a stone lighter and still have a wobbly gut!

There was also a medal that Tracey got from doing the Rough Runner! Amazing. These are the best things about doing this challenge, I absolutely love it 😍

Marathon 35, survival kit
Marathon 35, survival kit
Marathon 35, survival kit
Marathon 35, Medal

5.08

Time

2,050ft

Elevation

2,976

Calories

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.


Massive Anchor Marathon supporters

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 to run it regardless.

Steve was 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 all 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

5.24

Time

1,914ft

Elevation

3,017

Calories

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.