An international half

Over the past few months I have been training primarily with a friend, she is relatively new to running and is yet to compete heavily. So when the topic of her running her first half marathon came up I thought it might be fun to run it in the snow. That idea was quickly quashed as it turns out it is incredibly expensive to run a snow race – who knew!

A little searching around and we found another half in Terassa, a town an hours train journey from Barcelona. Neither of us could speak spanish but thanks to Google translate and a spanish speaking friend we managed to enter the race. A quick check of the race entrants we noticed we were the only brits, time to represent our country!

It wouldn’t just be a case of turning up and running, we first needed to collect our race numbers and timing chips from Terrassa the day before the race. After 8 modes of transport we finally arrived to collect our numbers and timing chips. This is the first time we noticed there may be a slight language barrier, while a high proportion of people in Barcelona can speak spanish, heading to the smaller towns reduces this considerably. To the point no one at the number collection spoke english, we managed to collect our number, chip, sack and present, we did however, lack any pins to attach our numbers.A prepared runner may have brought their own safety pins, but neither Rachel or I were particulary prepared.

After eating our tea consisting of a chocolate pastry on a bench, unable to find milk in a supermarket ?!?! and somehow even failing to order a meal at McDonald’s, we figured it was time to call it a night.

Waking early we headed to the train station, it was closed… Google maps to the rescue! There was another train station a short walk down the road. As we headed down the stairs we heard the warning beep for doors closing, “*giggling* you don’t think thats our train do you Rachel?”. As we stepped onto the platform our train did indeed pull out of the station. No need to panic though, another train will be along in 20 minutes, it may now be close to make it in time, but we will make it! So we sat down attached our timing chips and ate Jelly Babies as we waited for the train.

Sat on the train we giggled about what a fun story this would make – we only just made it to the race! It would be a great tale to tell. We arrived at the train station, booted up Google maps and we were on our way to the start. We arrived with 15 minutes to spare! We had a quick scoot around the staging area and decided we had time to head to the toilet and grab some pins for our numbers.

There was one portaloo, one toilet, one toilet for thousands of runners. Therefore, the queue ate into our time but it was ok, we were not starting first we would be fine! We hunted around for someone who spoke english and we found a little old lady managing the information stand. We told her we needed pins for our numbers and she gladly obliged. We stood around chatting for a while and heard the starting pistol for the first wave of people. We politely left, but only after persuading her to save all our things while we ran, and headed to the start. We gated with the other runners and set about making sure all our kit was ready to race. It was only then that Rachel noticed everyone elses numbers were a different colour, “you dont suppose this is the 5k race do you?”, “Nah, it cant be!”, “Or is it?”, “Yeah it is, this is the wrong race!”.

Hunting around for someone who spoke english we couldn’t find anyone, convinced marathon was the same in spanish we kept asking anyone in an ear shot where the start of the half marathon was. We quickly realised we were at the start line, we had just missed the start!

Rachel hurridly asked people if we were still allowed to start, we were! So we stood there, with no other runners and crowds of people no doubt staring at us. We began to run and realised we had no idea what the route actually was. We had intended just to follow everyone else. There were a number of road closures but more roads than simply the route had been closed, so we decided the only thing we could do was run fast in the hopes of finding other runners. So with no idea where to go we just started running faster and faster. After asking a few people in high vis where to go we found the sweeper bus. This made us smug with confidence, we were on the right route! We hurriedly sped by as people hung out of the van laughing at the people who missed the start.

We ran off into the distance past roundabouts and barriers, then Rachel noticed we were heading back to the start. The barrier had been moved to account for the 5k race! We had to double back and attempt to find the route. We decided the solution was once again to run even faster, afterall we would surely find someone soon!

After a few minutes we did find someone, the sweeper bus. Yet again shamed by the people on the bus we quickly overtook and headed down the road. This time however, we found another runner. In our heads we celebrated but didn’t want to particularly gloat that we were overtaking a 90 year old man that the crowd who had gathered on the corner were cheering. We continued to run at pace and find more and more people. We quickly decided to settle in to a pace and get on with the race.

Everything was going well until around mile 11 and I began to cramp. This was new to me, in all the races I have run I have never cramped. It hit our pace and we had to slow, we continued to eek out the distance as Rachel – a relatively new runner was putting me to shame. We were approaching the finish! But as as is common in these races it was a false finish, you first had to pass the finish line just to taunt you, then run a further 2k out and back.

A few hundred metres from the finish my leg began to spasm, surely it would hold out to the finish? Thankfully, it did and we crossed the finish line. We had no idea of our time, as I had started RunKeeper a little early, while we gated for the wrong race, but the race clock showed 2h20m. We knew we had definitely beaten that as we were still busy chatting in the race village as the clock started.

After crashing hard after the race, thanks to the last time we ate being 8 hours earlier, we headed back to Barcelona. We celebrated Rachel’s first ever half with a 3 euro bottle of fizzy and handfuls of Pringles. What a race! I wonder when we will find out our result.

The next day we did, 2h20m. It turned out they had turned off the timing gate at the start in preparation for the next race, so our chips never triggered a start, only a finish!

But the race served as a great example of my philosophy around running, its never about the time, its about the experience. We will never forget the moment of panic as we started the race alone, with no idea of the route, or the elation of finding the sweeper bus, for the first and second time. But we would of forgot the time. It’s a number and not a number that affects my experience.

Boston to NYC – The Line

While running with a friend I had a little flashback to a moment from my Boston to NYC adventure. As my friend and I ran down a road I was using my usual trick of feeling the line underfoot, when I remembered a moment from the roads of Connecticut.

It was when I began to really think about running the line. My guide was off in front with the simple instruction, “follow the line Simon!”. Everyone in the group including myself readily accepted my ability to feel the line and stick to it, one foot wrong and I would be facing the enormity of the american traffic. For a single moment I realised just how high risk the belief in my ability was. But that was it, one single passing moment of “I cant see and I am just feeling this line!” and then it faded away. I quickly flicked back into the moment and carried on chatting to my guide out front.

Those months of honing my skill of following the lines has really automated the task, and I rarely think about it. Following the line has just become second nature.

Dream to Reality

A few years ago I began to think of a few adventures I would love to embark on. I came up with three: The Pilgrimage, The Return and The Dream. Late last month I was fortunate enough for The Pilgramage to become a reality.

The basic premise of The Pilgrimage was to pay homage to RunKeeper and visit a city close to my heart – NYC. The dream was to run from the HQ of RunKeeper in Boston, to NYC then compete in the NYC marathon. The idea to visit the RunKeeper HQ was to thank them for where I am today. Their app enabled me to believe running solo was possible, the reason NYC? I spent a bit of time there, while I could still see. Therefore, the city remains close to my heart.

The adventure was made possible by a few select companies, namely Twitter, PayPal and AirBnB, Little did I know that partnering with AirBnB would elevate the adventure so greatly.

I have decided to break the details of the adventure up into a little series of moments, rather than detailing the adventure chronologically, I will highlight the memories that were forged and hopefully paint a picture of how I will remember the adventure.

It is worth noting at this point how great all the companies, hosts and especially my crew were in making this a reality. Even now 2 weeks after my return the experiences are difficult to comprehend. It became more than a run, and far more than the pilgrimage I had intended it to be.

Running Style

For the past 2 years I have been a data driven runner. I logged everything and basically always ran with the thought in mind to beat the last bit of data I had collected. This served me well for a long time, but with everything in life I need to add a little balance.

With a constant need to run for the data, I was spending large amount of time running outdoors. With lots of runs easily hitting the 6 hour mark. As a lot of runners will know balancing running and the other elements of your life is very difficult. So after this years surgeries and my recent chest infection I decided it was time for a new approach for my runs.

My wife and I went and bought a bike and a child seat. With the idea if I was going out for an hour or so the family could come along and enjoy a bike ride. This new approach to running has brought some wonderful benefits. For the first time in 2 years I have been able to change my training route. With my wife acting as a guide on the bike I can run along side and we can go wherever we like. We have managed to cover some trails close to my house and even run around a few of the local villages.

It has been great and todays run highlighted how much fun running with the family can be. While exploring a new route my wife rang her bell twice to tell me to stop; she had found a frog! So I picked it up so Grayson could see his first real life frog. He just giggled lots as he touched the little frog, then it jumped off my hand straight into the gear section of my wife’s bike! After spraying water at the frog we managed to remove it and carry on.

It really has been a nice change of pace to my running but is very difficult to transition away from the data driven approach. I can see my pace slipping in my stats but this is due to the new routes and how many times we stop to explore. I could easily solve this if I paused my GPS but who wants to fiddle about taking your phone out of your pocket all the time. Hopefully that problem will be solved when my Pebble arrives!

But for now I am trying to ignore the data and just enjoy running in a new way. An opportunity to explore our local area as a family.

What a week

The last 7-10 days have been rough. Due to my surgeries and guide dog training I had delayed all my exams until august. Unfortunately that meant this week I had 3 exams on consecutive days.

So as well as compressing all my revision into 2 weeks I had to memorise all the information for consecutive days. So this week I used a few memory techniques to memorise around 12,000 words in essay format. Now there is now telling if I remembered the right 12,000 words but I certainly hit quantity! This resulted in the past few nights me sat rehearsing pretty much non stop, this can get a little tiresome. So I was thankful that today was the last of the consecutive exams. I still have one more exam to go but compared to the three I just had to cram for the revision should be relatively simple.

I did however get some great news this morning, I don’t really want to say too much about it yet as I am not sure it will pan out. But I will put a little pin here to say….. something great might be happening!


This year was supposed to be my big year of racing. With plans to amass enough points to compete at the UTMB. However due to multiple surgeries and guide dog training that wasn’t meant to be. So I figured my 2012 racing wasn’t to be.

Until! A friend of mine Charlie told me that the Great North Run were using the commercial I shot in the emails they were sending out. This inspired me to email ASICS and ask for a slot at the GNR. ASICS granted me the slot and I will now be heading to the race and running with Charlie and a runner I met recently Bryan.

With my 2012 qualifying a wash, I decided to compete in 2013 to qualify for UTMB. Now in order to even get to the qualifying races I need to qualify for the qualifier! They don’t make this easy! So I will now also be running The Round Ripon again with Bryan. This will hopefully secure my slot at Thames Path 100 mile next year which makes up part of the Centurion Grand Slam, which in turns gives me the UTMB points. Stick with me here!

I then got an email from a runner friend of mine Neil Bacon. He said why don’t you ask ASICS to put us both in the NYC marathon. I thought, hell why not so I shot off an email. Amazingly they said yes and got us in! So I am now running the only marathon I have ever wanted to run! It has been on my list of races to run even before I started running. Its just one of those marathons that draws me in. Me and my wife have spent a fair bit of time over in NYC so I know it from back when I could see. So it will be wonderful to return there now and run the streets.

The racing doesn’t end there though. I get a lot of random invites to races all over the world. California, Andora, Africa, Cyprus basically loads of places. (If anyone out there wants to invite me to a race do it, I love to go all over the place and run). Well a few months ago I received a message on Facebook asking if I wanted to run a marathon underground in a salt mine. All I would have to do is get to Germany the rest would be sorted. So I thought, why not?

So now I have a wonderful race lineup over the next few months. My first ever half marathon and my first ever marathon. That does sound a little strange considering the distances I run, but I don’t really compete at the short distance.

(I did compete in the Sheffield Half as part of The Marathon Sandwich, but GNR will be my first straight up half!)

TR24 – The Story

A few months ago a friend of mine, May. Contacted me asking if I wanted to run the TR24 and could put a team together. The TR24 is a 24 hour relay race held on trails. I agreed and started looking at putting a team together.

I jumped on Twitter and just started asking for team members. Before I knew it we had a little team! Yay, team done now its time to enter. I usually end up ringing the race director of events just to discuss the fact I can’t see and if there would be any issues with the course and so on. I was warned; “it might be very difficult in sections” I fobbed this off agreed to do it and entered the team.

2 weeks from race day we lost 2 team members, injuries and work commitments meant they couldn’t make it. So quickly we had to find replacements, luckily a few days later an ultra runner who lives incredibly close by added me on twitter. I asked him if he was interested and he jumped at the chance, one slot filled. May was busy trying to fill the other slot and 3 days before she managed to find someone. Luckily they were local to the event so could even help with setting up camp.

So with our random team built and with a rather fitting name of the Twitterati we all began to descend on the course. Stuart arrived first and bagged THE best camping spot without a doubt! I arrived second with another runner Rohan, setting up camp we sat back and waited for others to arrive. Rew and Craig were the next to arrive. The plan was to chill out that night and do a track walk to get an idea of the terrain in the morning.

Predictably waking up late we didn’t have time to do a full track work we just covered around 2k of the course. The sections we had seen seemed ok and I wasn’t too worried. Heading back to base camp Bryan and Dawn were arriving. We now only needed Colin and May for a full house. They all arrived slightly later and the team was ready to race.

We put Colin at first as that man was fast! putting in great consistent times, Rohan went out second and continued to put in great times. It eventually got to my turn.

The first 2k that we had walked went reasonably well, the rest? well the rest was awful. The terrain was terrible, without a doubt the worst terrain I have ever run on. The wooded sections were so difficult and me and my guide struggled hugely. We decided that a night time run would be out of the question as the difficult in guiding would go through the roof!

Hobbling to the finish line I was struggling, not training for 2 months and my still lingering cough were taking their toll. As soon as I got back to camp I had to lay down for an hour. I was beat, physically and mentally and over such a short distance!

Thankfully the team were excellent, all putting in wonderful times and creating a fantastic atmosphere. The team quickly came up with a new plan to cope with me dropping the night section and everyone prepared themselves for night time running.

For some it was their first experience of running at night and they performed incredibly well. Dawn even went as far to say that she liked it!

With the sun rising it was time for me to head out again. I again found it tough going, the terrain basically made guiding very difficult. Now the issue with guiding on such rough terrain is the fact the guide can only tell you whats going to be underfoot not aid in dodging it. So even if they say roots, dip, rock there is no way of avoiding it you have to take the hit. This was gradually breaking me down and nearing the end of the 10k I really wanted to stop, but I aint got stop built in! So I carried on and made it to the end.

This si where I decided to call it quits, it was simply getting to risky. I wasn’t particularly healthy and the knocks I taking were beginning to have an effect. Wanting to stay healthy for a massive number of events I have coming up I decided to bow out of one more lap. This however turned out for the best!

With Bryan, Rew, Craig, Coling, Rohan, Stuart and Dawn putting in consistent times it looked ilke we may be able to play it sneaky and start out last lap just before the buzzer. With the rules stating as long as the lap has begun before 12 and finished before 1 it counts!

With Dawn putting in a great time setting up Rew for that one slog to get in under 12 minutes. Rew set off and put in a solid time that brought him back at 11:55, I had bowed out and given my slot to Rohan. Rohan did amazing putting in the final lap which resulted in us completing 25 laps! This placed us well above the middle of the table. An amazing result for a team that had only just met on the previous day!

TR24 was perhaps one of the most challenging events I have competed in. Solely because I was so unprepared for that terrain. This did however this did implant the thought I have to go back. Dropping 30 minutes on my usual 10k just due to the terrain, means I have to go back. I will master that course and put in more consistent times!

The overall experience was fantastic though. It fells like a true event, a real weekend away. When you are not running its just great to head to the eating area chill out and meet other runners. It really does have a little festival feel to it that includes a little bit of running.

The opportunity to meet a new set of people was amazing too. I already have multiple races planned with the team members. In the end that is what I see these runs as, an opportunity to meet new people and create new running buddies to compete with in the future.

TR24 was both a horrid experience and a wonderful one at the same time. I will definitely be going back!

(Also I am sure I forgot to mention loads in this post, but so much happened and no one wants to read a 10,000 word essay!)


Ever since my last surgery I have had problems with being ill. I was never able to bounce back from surgery for some reason. The first surgery went great, I was literally running ready a little over 18 hours later.

I have had a cough now for nearly 2 months and I just can’t shake it. It has really been affecting my training and I noticed it on the run up to TR24. Out with Sian I was unable to cover 2 miles as I just couldn’t breathe. I figured at TR24 with it being race day I could up my game and all would be fine.

I did manage to do my laps but then needed to lay down straight away to try and recover. It was horrid and I certainly can’t do events like that while ill!

So the plan is to try and get healthy, I have been and had a chest x ray to see if there is anything underlying that is causing a cough to last this long. Hopefully it will all clear up soon and I will be training ready.

It just seems so annoying, this entire year I haven’t been healthy for long enough to get any real training in.

So in an effort to try and sort it once and for all I am hitting all the factors I think it could be. So diet and rest are high on the list, reducing stress and introducing working out back slowly.

I only did this post as I feel I am at a turning point now. So I want to track my progress for now and see how long it takes to get back on track!

Post Surgery: A New Chapter

I have just recently had my last eye surgery, this time it was on my right eye. While the surgery was successful I am still unsure whether there is an improvement in my eye. I think it will take time to settle down and hopefully improve.

However these past 4 months have been difficult the number of things I have delayed for surgery and guide dog training has just grew larger. It is like my life has been on hold the past few months and I was hoping at the end there would be an instant improvement. Now surgery has come and gone its time to start working on everything I have delayed.

The amount of revision I have to get through is astounding, I have no idea if I will manage to attain the result I want. I just have to comfort myself with the fact that year 1 grades don’t count, its just there to get you through to year 2. There is of course a chance I can still come out of year one with a first, however that is quite unlikely with only a few days to do months of revision.

I also missed out on the run I had been training for. The past 6 months had been building up to one race that I had to bow out of. This was a difficult decision to make and one I didn’t commit to until the last possible moment.

I have decided to take a more relaxed approach to my training and go as minimalist as I possibly can. I will still rely on a lot of tech but simply reduce the rate in which I track and monitor in real time. So gone are the splits and the calorie counts per hour. In are the just running and nibbling when hungry. I think this new relexed approach will pay dividends. I have already been out for a gentle run with my wife while she rode her bike. Not concerned about the distance or pace just going out to spend some time together doing something healthy.

So a new more relexed year is planned, with lots of running and lots of studying!

A Call for A SmartTreadmill

I currently own a NordicTrack T14 treadmill. What makes this treadmill so special is its iFit Live system. The iFit live system allows a route to be plotted online through google maps that is then sent to the treadmill. So any inclines that appear on the plotted route are automatically changed by the treadmill. It basically allows you to practice running the inclines of any given route.

This really is a nice system, you can even hook up a TV and navigate to the iFit website and it will display the google street view of your current location. However after using this treadmill for a while I can see a number of areas it could be improved to make a truly great treadmill.

The Smart Treadmill as I envisage it would be controlled by an iPad this is for a number of reasons.

1. Reduced cost for developing the console. The consoles are usually terrible on low to mid level treadmills. With the high end treadmills simply gaining features such as television. Utilising an iPad for a console would give great access to technology.

2. Unique features of the iPad, there is already a music player built in, movies built in, web browser and a never ending list of applications.

3. Brilliant touch screen technology. Lets face it Apple’s touch screens are just beautiful compared to the competitors.

4. New revenue streams for the manufacturer. Currently the manufacturer creates the treadmill then sells it. Revenue stream over. However make the iPad the console and you have now created a market place. A market place where you can sell workout packs, map packs and a whole host of other products that could produce revenue years after the sale of the treadmill.

5. Accessibility. It is simply not financially viable for current manufacturers to create an accessible treadmill for the blind. Make a treadmill that has an iPad for a console and this problem is solved. With VoiceOver built into the iPad all information that is on the screen can be read out. How amazing would that be an accessible treadmill!

I would really love this treadmill to exist. The feature list could be huge, with an easy updateable system this feature list can be expanded over time.

Plotting routes via a mapping system would be incredibly easy with the iPad controlling the treadmill. Also utilising a system like google street view would also be easy. Hell without the need to create an embedded control system the development time would be far quicker.

So please treadmill manufactures make this treadmill! Oh and if you do please send me one for suggesting it in the first place!