(Almost) crying because of a halo…

(Almost) crying because of a halo…

I almost cried this week in school, not a thing a Deputy Principal should do!

Why?

I showed my Year 11 (Grade 10/16-year olds) a 28 minute YouTube film that came out this week. It is inspirational, and as such next week I will show it to Year 7-10 in their assembly.

My, almost (I didn’t, just felt like it) cry, wasn’t because of the content of the film, but because it brought back so many memories for me.

I remember being on the start line of the London Marathon in April 2015, when 7 months earlier I couldn’t run 100 metres alongside a Bulgarian friend. For me there were tears of joy at the end of the London Marathon, as before this I had spent 7 months of treatment in and out of hospital turning the pages of my kindle with my nose, as my arms hurt too much from the chemotherapy drugs, then training from zero to be able to run 42.2 km; it was a major challenge, but one I am proud to have accomplished.

The film, which I think all should watch (it is only 28 minutes long!) is:

In 6 weeks I take on a new challenge, something I have never done before, a 100 km race, the “Carphone Warehouse Race to the Stones“. I’ve done many races in the past 4 years, mostly half-marathons, interspersed with a few marathons and the inaugural 57 km Firelighter (the first day of the Ring O’ Fire 3-day ultra) but this is definitely a running challenge beyond what I’ve done before, both before and after bowel cancer.

Why?

Because I can, and also to help others…

I’m almost fifty, just over 200 days to go an Excel formula tells me, and I feel lucky to still be alive, and capable of mad challenges. There are many who go have bowel cancer without the support I had from my wife/family/work/friends, and many who do not survive it. In addition to it being good physically and mentally for me to run such races(!) I also aim to raise money for bowel cancer charities, this time for Bowel Cancer UK, in the hope that they can today help those going through what I did (it really isn’t nice), and in the future help medical progress so that such things cease to exist.

Am I ready – no, in my humble opinion!

My training has been limited – only 500+ km this year, with one extreme marathon, one marathon and a few half-marathons within that.

Will I still do the race – YES.

Will I finish – at this distance it’s the mind that will get me there, not my body. I will be fortunate to be running alongside a good Slovenian friend, who will fly over with me to the UK just for this race, and he has run several 100+ km ultras.

I am looking to increase the amount raised – if you can help please, please make a donation via my JustGiving page:

JustGiving logo

Going back to the film today, I pointed out to a student after he had finished watching it, “don’t you dare complain about me ‘volunteering’ you to run next week for Global Running Day, you are fortunate to be able to do such things, maybe one day you will realise this” (NB he completed a 7 km race for the first time a couple of months ago for his Duke of Edinburgh International Award, with me as his coach!) 🙂

Please support my charity efforts via the link above, thank you.

Countdown to #rtts2018 on my website 🙂

Just to remind you this is the route, roll on Saturday 14 July:
Race route

Race to the Stones 2018

Dixons Carphone Race to the Stones on 14/15 July 2018 is my charity race this year – a new challenge as I have entered for the 100 km non-stop race. The 100 km non-stop is on Saturday 14 July, though there are options to do a 50 km on the Saturday and then again on the Sunday (camping overnight), or just do 50 km on either day. But, with the saying of “in for a penny, in for a pound” I opted for the full non-stop race 🙂

Once again I will be raising monies for Bowel Cancer UK via a new JustGiving page.

Bowel Cancer UK logoJustGiving logo

Something new for a Saturday in July, for me. Alongside me I will have a very experienced ultra-marathoner, my Slovenian friend Relja Mirović. This will aid both in terms of motivation as well as having someone there who has done such races before so knows what it takes to get to the end. for both of us though this will be a new venture, myself in terms of distance, Relja in terms of location.

We’ll start at Lewknor, in Oxfordshire, and finish at the Avebury Stones, with most of the race along The Ridgeway, recognised as the oldest path in England.

Race route

This is the promotional video for the event, makes you want to enter too doesn’t it 🙂

I have designed a training plan, to start from the week commencing 5 February, which starts with runs of 19 km on Tuesday, 17 km on Thursday and 24 km on Saturday – should be a fun start to a 20 week programme.

If you would like to support my efforts, please click on the JustGiving picture below:JustGiving logo

Thanks to the gentlemen of “Club 11” who raised £415 at their January dinner; therefore I am almost there with my initial goal of £500.
Club 11 BelgradeSo:Keep Calm

Belgrade Marathon Day – 22 April 2017 – before the event

Belgrade Marathon Day – 22 April 2017 – before the event

It’s on next week, the 30th edition of the Belgrade Marathon.
Belgrade Marathon 30th logo
My family will be taking part in the 5 km Fun Run, supporting BELhospice.

Below is a video, from photos along the route I took for the 2015 event; the route for this event is still the same.

I’ll be running the half-marathon, 10 years since I last ran it. There is a new route this year for the half and full marathons. Below is the map from last year (as it was in 2007) and the route for 2017 – can you see the differences? Just, perhaps, yet from the Marathon HQ you would think this was an amazing new route!
Old Belgrade marathon route

Old Belgrade Full/Half Marathon route

2017 Belgrade Marathon route

2017 Belgrade Full/Half Marathon route

Anyway I am hoping for a reasonable time. This will be my fourth half marathon this year, following on from Palić (4 March), Kruševac (26 March) and Bratislava (1 April). In each of those races I finished either in 1 hour 34 or 1 hour 35 minutes, which for me is excellent.

Let’s just hope the weather is good. Last year it was boiling hot, and the year before cold and pouring with rain.

Start times are 10:00 am for the full/half marathon, and then about 10 minutes after for the 5 km Fun Run.

And the following day I plan to rest and watch the London Marathon, live on Eurosport 🙂

Firelighter – charity run in 2017

Having passed my target of 1200 km in 2016, for me the main target is to continue to run, and more importantly to enjoy the running. My target for 2017 is 1500 (recorded) km.

At the same time, I still, very personally, appreciate the fact that I can enjoy my running, many can’t. Therefore, I have set myself a challenge for 2017; finish my first ultramarathon, via the Firelighter event on 1 September 2017. This will also be the focus of my charity fundraising for 2017, to try and raise funds to benefit bowel/colon cancer charities via a challenging first for me.

So why the Firelighter?

Well, it’s unfinished business for me. The Firelighter is (for the first time in its own right) the first day of the Ring O’ Fire 3-day race. I tried this a couple of years ago, but it was beyond me at that time. That story, my attempt then, I posted here.

The basic details are:

Firelighter overview

The organisers of the event have Bowel Cancer UK as an official race charity; they feel supporting it is something worthwhile.

bowelcanceruk

It is a great race, well organised, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience last time. This time, with the Firelighter as a new event, I intend to ensure my training (and arriving in North Wales in time) means I will complete the event 🙂

This is an ultramarathon along the coast of Anglesey with many undulations/surfaces of over 57 km (with a lowered time limit of 10 hours now, it was 11 hours before) –  it’s a major challenge!

Therefore, I’m going to try something I haven’t yet achieved, at the age of 48; of running in a race further than my age (in km)!

Why, because I believe I can, and more importantly appreciate that I can.

Please do support me in this challenge, by donating online via my new JustGiving page. If you are in Belgrade and don’t want to donate online please get in touch and if you give me cash I will donate that amount online on your behalf. There will be some fundraising events in 2017, in Belgrade, I just have to get them planned (ideas welcome!)

All monies raised from individuals will go to charity. If a company wishes to cover some/all of my expenses (flights/train/accommodation/kit etc) then fantastic, but no money raised from individuals will be used to cover this.

Please support my efforts, they will benefit others who need support. I’ve been there and know first-hand what the impact is, which is why I want to support charities helping others/research into a cure for all – it really is not a nice thing to go through.

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

PS If you fancy joining me in the first ever running of this specific race, the Facebook event is at – https://www.facebook.com/events/308294206236982/ then formally join via the SignUp form 😉

50 Day Streak

When?

Start: 26 December 2016
Finish: 13 February 2017

What?

I am trying something new with my running – a 50 day streak. One where I do keep my clothes on 🙂

So a streak is?

For me, running a minimum of 5 km, every day, for 50 consecutive days.

Why?

My first race, a half-marathon, is on 4 March in Palić, with a few more over subsequent months, and a focus on the Firelighter ultra (for charity) planned on 1 September (see below results for sponsorship link). So I thought I would try something new with my training as I still have time to change to fit in more with the races.

Results (to be updated over the weeks)?

Week 1, completed, days 1-7, 26 Dec 2016 – 1 Jan 2017:

week1of50-5

Week 2, completed, days 8-14, 2 Jan – 8 Jan :

week2of50-5

Week 3, completed, days 15-21, 9 Jan – 15 Jan:

week3of50-5

Week 4, completed, days 22-28, 16 Jan – 22 Jan:

week4of50-5

Week 5, completed, days 29-35, 23 Jan – 29 Jan:

week5of50-5

Week 6, completed, days 36-42, 30 Jan – 5 Feb:

week6of50-5

Week 7, completed, days 43-49, 6 Feb – 12 Feb:

week7of50-5

Week 8, completed, day 50 (13 Feb):

week8of50-5I ran the 5.3 km with my 12 year old son on Day 50*5, then continued to run each day and the last day of the week was the 50th day of 2017.

Stopped my streak on Day 60 (see picture below) – just fancied a rest; so took Friday and Saturday off.
Then ran 12 km in exactly one hour on Sunday (with 191 m of elevation).

week9of50-5

I’ll do another streak, some time, some distance as it was good fun 🙂

My next charity race – please support Bowel Cancer UK via the link below:

JustGiving(https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rof2)

Running – 2016

Running – 2016

Happy New Year – Срећна Нова година

These are the races that I took part in during 2016, starting in Palić around the lake, and ending running around a horse racing track in Belgrade!

Since starting running again in September 2014, upon completion of my chemotherapy and after a gap of seven years, in 2016 I ran more than in any other year. This was even with gaps in my training for sickness/work/personal commitments. The total I ran can be seen at the bottom of this post; I did run further than my target 🙂

Palić Half Marathon – 5 March 2016

We had a lovely family holiday in Palić (as always), and whilst it was a bit on the day of the race the setting was lovely. 3 laps of a course taking in a lot of the lake. Best part was that my 11 year old son ran the 5 km race (lap 1) with me achieving an excellent time of 26:23. I ran the race in 1:42:16 which I was very happy with 🙂

Palic event picture

 

2. Spring Rolls (8 km) – 20 March 2016

My 11 year old son joined me for this run too. We ran alongside the Sava river, in very muddy conditions on a 2 lap course. Great fun, with the bonus of it being a run for charity so others benefitted from us taking part.

sr-logo

 

Belgrade Marathon – 16 April 2016

Entered the full marathon, but having run the first half in just under 2 hours was not feeling well and at around 24 km pulled up, was sick in the bushes and walked home. So a DNF for me; such is life. A very hot day and I just did not feel that it worked for me. Always next year, the 30th running of the event (though think I’ll stick to the half)…

bgd-marathon-logo

 

Wings For Life (vs. car) – 8 May 2016

This is a novel idea, everyone starts running, and then after half an hour either a real or virtual car starts after you. It starts slowly, then starts to speed up the further you go. As there was no actual race in Belgrade I was running against a virtual car using an app on my phone. Bit of trouble with the app, it worked on my phone, but not my son’s, meaning we spent the first few minutes trying to resolve the problem (the race starts at the same time throughout the world, 13:00 CET) rather than running. Managed 18.9 km of my 21.1 km target before the virtual car caught me, he managed 11.5 km.wfl-logo

 

Sombor Half Marathon – 15 May 2016

Long day this one, caught bus at 05:30 on a chilly, light rainy day. The bus stopped at Novi Sad, before arriving in Sombor. However, the race itself was great in that I managed to keep going well after 16 km, instead of slowing down, helped by the very flat nature of the race (zero m elevation!). As such I finished the race in 1:40:13, my best time since completing the chemotherapy.

37logo

 

Novi Sad Night Half Marathon – 25 June 2016

Second consecutive year I’ve run this half marathon. Start at 21:45 in very hot and humid conditions with 3 laps. Each lap is half on road surface, half on running track surface. Still have no idea how to run this race, and whilst it is a great event I still don’t seem to do well in running it; as my time of 2:04 shows. But still plan to do it again…

ns-logo

 

Rakovica Half Marathon – 2 July 2016

A lovely run around Rakovica, on the outskirts of Belgrade, ending up (after going up a hill at the end of the race) at the monastery. Again, due to it being summer, the race was in the evening. A slow race as I went out of my way to run slowly after Novi Sad and enjoy the evening. Still very enjoyable, but with a finish time of 2:09 there is room for improvement next year!event-pic

 

Bath Long Half Marathon – 24 July 2016

Hilly, hilly, and even more hilly! 25.5 km (a long half-marathon!), with 650 m of elevation, mostly up small forest tracks as this was for a large part a trail race. Hence a finish time of 2:53 which I was happy with. Great to do a run back in the UK, and as we had a weekend away in Bath managed to be a tourist as well. Part of a series of races organised by Relish Running Races, well organised, with what has to be the friendliest marshals of all the races I’ve run this year.

brr-logo

 

Gloucester Marathon – 7 August 2016

So pleased to make it to the inaugural Gloucester Marathon – my home city. A lovely flat race they said, going through the city and then out into the countryside. All true, except for one huge hill just two thirds of the way through! Though this was 42.2 km with 66 m of climbing (compare that to the Bath race). First half in 1:50 but then found it tough and finished in 4:29 (walked some of the second half!) Still better time than previous marathons, Belgrade earlier on in the year and London 2015 so have to be happy with the result.

gcm-logo

 

Hvar Half Marathon – 20 August 2016

Holiday time – great place to have a family holiday; on a beautiful island off the coast of Croatia. We went with the excellent specialist running travel company, Active Traveling, so everything was organised for us. At the end of a lovely week the race took place. This is a straight up, then straight down race – 571 m up and quiet a bit down. Very tiring, but the views are worth it – fantastic views on a very hot afternoon. Finished in 2:08.hvar-logo

 

We Run Belgrade (10 km) – 4 September 2016

A run around Belgrade, from Ušće park, though to the centre and back again. The race was free (probably why only half those registered actually race the race), and with several thousand taking part it was a great event to run in. Many of those running it was clear had not done much running; why my time of 47:24 put me in the top 20% of times. As I finished in the same time as my age it was a good race for me.

wrb-logo

 

3 Carrots Irish Pub Half Marathon (!) –  28 September 2016

My charity race for the year – running a half marathon in a pub. The full story is on a previous blog post – https://neil4bc.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/belgrade-record-achieved/

launch1

 

Coca-Cola Fun Run (5 km) – 15 October 2016

A 5 km race around Ušće park. I ran the race with my eleven year old son, and it was great that there were also some other parents/friends running with their children. We ran fast and hard (sprinting the last 100 m) to cross the line in 26.3 (5.2 km), therefore just a touch over 25 minutes for 5 km. So well done to us both 🙂

cc-logo

 

Plavi Krug Oke Ade – 13 November 2016

Cold, cold, no not cold but freezing – what a morning to do a marathon for the benefit of charity. Running around a lake with a bitterly cold wind coming off it, in a sub-zero temperature was never going to be fun. After 26.8 km (3.5 laps) of the lake I called it a day. Good point was 2 of these laps where the fastest I have run around Ada Ciganlija; I ran the first 21.1 km (half-marathon) in 1:53.

Plavi Krug oko Ade

 

Only Fools and Horses (5 km) – 4 December 2016

A fun 5 lap ~5 km run for charity around the Belgrade Hipodrom (horse race track) with my eleven year old son. e had a great time, and I enjoyed pushing him to do well in this race, with a time of 25:32 for 4.9 km. My six year old son, not to be outdone, also did one lap. The two youngest enjoyed their ride on the horses too!

Only Fools and Horses

Pictures from all the events are on my Facebook page – facebook.com/neil4bc – do pay it a visit and Like the Page if you haven’t already.

And that was my running (races) for 2016.

Over the year I managed to reach my target of 1200 km, officially recording, on my Strava account, 1234.5 km.

Total km in 2016

Roll on 2017, lots more (charity) races planned, and targets to aim for (posts to follow showing the what/why/when)…

So once again Happy New Year – Срећна Нова година 🙂

500 dinars per 500 metres

500 dinars per 500 metres

Title picture

Whilst I may not have the time to organise events at the moment, I decided I should still try to raise money for bowel cancer charities.

With 2 races, in Serbia, coming up I therefore set a challenge to raise money related to them:
Palić half marathon – 21 km – 5 March 2016
Belgrade marathon – 42 km – 16 April 2016

Total distance ~ 63 km (to nearest km!)

So I set a target of raising 63.000 dinars (~€510  / ~£400) by asking people to donate 500 dinars (in total, not per 500 m!!) which would cover 500 metres of these races. Therefore if 126 people donate I would raise the target amount.

All monies raised will be split 50/50 between the Serbian colon cancer charity and EuropaColon (who work across Europe, including Serbia).

serb-charity  EuropaColon

2 days after launching this initiative (last Thursday, 4 February, which was World Cancer Day) I had received pledges covering the Palić half marathon race, i.e. 21.000 dinars 🙂

21.000 raised already!

Now I’m looking for donations to cover the 42 km of the Belgrade marathon.
If you can help please send me a message, or email me neil4bc@gmail.com.

Thank you 🙂

Neil4BC Logo

 

 

Life, and running goes on…

It’s 2016, and I haven’t updated this blog for quite a while, so here’s an update…

After the fun of the Ring O’Fire I took a break from running, and then I took a break from Facebook for a  couple of months, and in doing so I really took a break from society. Work continued, as did family life, but what with all the running, the charity activities and the post-cancer life I needed a break from things. I achieved so much last year, in terms of my fitness through running and enjoyment of the races, but also in terms of the money raised for charity with the help and support of so many people. This was all part of my personal recovery from the previous year in hospital.

Then during the Christmas break I decided I needed to start running again as I was missing it, and so with heavy snow on the ground I ran through the local forest on January 3 (having run there the day before with no snow). After a just over an hour long run I returned home to be asked by my wife how many other runners I had seen on this popular route. “None” I said, “That’s because they’ve more sense when its sub-zero with a strong wind, and there is thick snow on the ground” she replied! It was great to be out running and as I enjoyed it I went out a few more times that week, e.g. Snow Run 2.

However, for me to continue to run I need targets, many people don’t but I need to have something to aim for, so I signed up for four races, 2 half-marathons and 2 marathons; well if you are going to have targets make them achievable but tough!

The first race will be in Palić on 5 March:

Palic polumaraton

The second race is the Belgrade Marathon. I ran the half-marathon in 2007, and both want to try the whole marathon as well as support a friend who wants to run her first marathon.

bgmaraton-logoBelgrade Marathon route

As I plan to be back in England this summer for a proper holiday (not the fleeting 3 day for an event visits I had last year) two races appealed to me. The first is a tough half-marathon around Bath on 24 July:

bath-hm1

and the second the Gloucester Marathon on 7 August. Back in my home city I will benefit from having family and friends there to support me.

Gloucester Marathon route

Gloucestere Marathon finisher t-shirts

The charity work, using the neil4bc/Charity Runner Neil I have now put on hold, though it could be revived. I have a new role as Chairman of the British Society of Serbia (BSS), within which we will be having our own charity events as well as supporting and promoting other charity events. One such event, organised by the Belgrade Lions Club is on this Sunday (31 January), a Burns Night event. So there is still a lot going on involving charities, just not with myself being the focal point. I do only have one running vest though, from Bowel Cancer UK so, weather permitting (it rained at the Belgrade Marathon and Palić half-marathon last year) then I will be visibly wearing it.

And that’s the update thus far…thanks for reading 🙂

Ring O’ Fire adventure

Ring O’ Fire adventure

blog-rof1

View from the start

I survived the Ring O’ Fire ultramarathon; I didn’t complete it but I did survive it 🙂

After all the training I lasted for 6 hours and 40 km, but just getting to the start line turned out to be a major adventure in itself.

my-splits

My timings – CP = Checkpoint

The race started on Friday at 13:00, with my plan being to fly over on Thursday morning from Belgrade, and catch the direct train from London Euston station to arrive in Holyhead at 21:00, have a good sleep and be ready to run the next day. Well things didn’t quiet go that way, with so many things going wrong from Wednesday evening…

The evening before my flight I went to for a massage, and with my physiotherapist being away on holiday the masseuse said she would put some kinesio tape on my knees and back to hold me together. When I turned up she said she didn’t have any tape, but after massaging my back also said I really needed it. So then she frantically rang around other physiotherapists she knew, she, and her next client found me one on the other side of the city centre who would stay open until I got to him (it was after 20:00 by this time). So I went off to him, and he taped me up almost the same as my regular physiotherapist but as he wasn’t used to me it was never going to be the same.

So Thursday morning I was ready, bags packed, waiting for the taxi driver to take me to the airport. We get to the airport on time and then the Air Serbia checkout people tell me that as I hadn’t reserved a seat I had the choice of going to London via Athens, or having a refund. For the first time ever that I have flown with Air Serbia the flight was full, not only full but they had taken the money from more customers than they had seats in the plane. This was normal business practice they assured me, and basically I could take it or leave it as they had decided that I (and a few others) weren’t going to get a seat on the plane, even though I had bought a ticket a few months before. Air Serbia won’t be in my Top Business list that is for sure. Having checked online there was a later train from Euston, but only to Birmingham, with a 4 hour wait until the 05:30 train to Holyhead so in theory I could still get to the start line of the Ring O’ Fire. I also had to pay for another train ticket, but they weren’t interested in that either.

blog-greece

Welcome to Greece!!

So first time ever to Greece, totally the wrong direction, but it was clear from the mentality of the Air Serbia staff that it was either that or get a refund; they couldn’t care less. Had 4 hours sat in Athens airport before getting a British Airways (BA) flight to Heathrow. Serbia is one of a tiny minority of countries that BA don’t fly to (they used to), and only having mainly flown with Air Serbia over the past few years it was good to enjoy a much higher standard of plane/staff/flight, even if I was not really happy to be there in the first place.

Arrived in Heathrow, just had time to get the Heathrow Express, and the tube to Euston in time to get the train to Birmingham. Arrived at 01:30, less than 12 hours before the race started, and not having had any sleep yet. Birmingham New Street station is having a major refit, so as I got off the train the announcer said the station was now closing so all passengers must leave the station. So what do you do in Birmingham on a Friday morning from 01:30 until your next train at 05:30? I went around the corner to the Britannia hotel thinking I could get a few hours sleep at least. The sign said £47 for a single, but the manager hiding in his office told the receptionist to say to me it would be £140 for 3 hours; needless to say the room stayed empty and wouldn’t recommend this place to anyone. The 24-hour Starbucks Birmingham New Street was the only place along the high street open, so I went in and stayed there for 3 hours. The friendly staff were great, and given I wasn’t a drunk or party-goer they were more than happy to just let me stay and have the occasional coffee (would recommend this place if you are in Birmingham).

blog-holyhead-welcome

Finally in Holyhead

Caught the 05:30 train and arrived at Holyhead, on Anglesey, at 08:30. No sleep (managed about a hour in total on the final train journey) for 26 hours now and my first ultramarathon was just a few hours away! I had sent Dave the owner of the Beach Hut Guest House a message so he knew not to expect me for the night, but he was ready to give make me breakfast and to let me use a room to have a shower/get ready, so I did get a decent full English breakfast on Friday.

blog-beach-hut

Beach Hut Guest House – recommended place to stay

Fortunately, another runner was staying at same guest house and he gave me a lift to the start area in the Breakwater National Park. Welcomes all round from the organisers, volunteers, and also from the other runners; they all made me feel a part of the event and that it was so worth the hassle of getting there. Much more of a close, friendly run than one gets at major city runs. Most people had seen each other at different events and so there was a great atmosphere at and around the start of the race. But it was chilly, with a strong breeze coming off the Irish sea. The daunting Holyhead Mountain was in front of us, this being the final part of the race, so if you survive for 134 miles/215 km you have this to look forward to in the last mile to get to the finish line!

blog-breakwater

View at the entrance to Breakwater Country Park

After a briefing by Bing, my GPS tracker attached to my backpack that contained my emergency blanket, first aid kit, survival whistle, maps, and compass, the adrenaline of starting my first ultramarathon was over-riding the tiredness I felt.

blog-ready-to-run

At the start line – bit chilly

And at 13:00 we were off, and at 13:01 just over 100 of us came to the first wooden kissing gate and had to wait one by one to get through, and the same happened at around 13:03, but then we were all on our way. We ran along the coastal path. The first few kilometres this also took us around Holyhead, and plenty of bemused looks from locals and tourists (along with welcoming remarks and clapping). Then across bridge, turned left and were very soon onto the rocky cove. This is where the fun really started…

blog-cove

One of many coves – tide starting to come in

Try running for a kilometre or more across a very large pebble cove, with the tide coming in, and into what felt like a gale force cold wind; exhilarating, but cold. Then it was across farmer’s fields and up and down hills. At the first checkpoint, around 9.5 miles/15 km from the start my body felt good, but I was still cold, and getting colder. At the second checkpoint (~16.5 miles/26 km) I was the same, enjoying the race but getting colder and colder. Things were also getting tougher as the hills were becoming much bigger and much steeper, so it was very much a run when you can, and walk up the hills time. Given I was getting colder all the time, every time I stopped to walk up a hill it was becoming harder to start again as my legs muscles tightened up. The winds whilst running along the cliff tops were strong, but they became extremely strong when running across several more pebble beaches. At around 30 km I went through a stile to find a few hundred cows looking up wondering what on earth I was doing there. Trying to get through them was amusing.

blog-general-view

Great views

I reached the penultimate checkpoint (25 miles/40 km at just before 19:00) on Day 1 and was shivering. Given that the final 10.4 miles/16.5 km would take me into the night and I wasn’t running with anyone I decided that enough was enough. Getting hypothermia and being lost somewhere with vehicles unable to get to you I just decided was not worth the risk (the ambulance was called out for one runner suffering from hypothermia during the race). The team at the checkpoint were great, they found me a blanket and some tea, and then got my emergency blanket from my bag. Thanks to Toby who drove me to the Amlwch Leisure Centre, the final stop for the day, and made sure I was OK. As we hadn’t removed the tracker (or even thought about it) my speed over the stage must have seemed fantastic for those tracking me live!

my-timings

My Ring O’ Fire race – dark blue line is height, spot the hills!

At the Leisure Centre, those involved with the race (organisers and volunteers) were very helpful. The few (fastest) runners who were back all understood where I was coming from and the leisure centre staff were helpful with meals, directions. I had a cool shower, and managed to get myself onto a massage table where the masseuse got my legs working again. At this point, around 20:00 I had not had any sleep for around 38 hours and whilst I was no longer freezing I was a bit exhausted. As I was out of the race the thought of a 05:00 wake-up call the next morning was not appealing so I looked to other options. The Leisure Centre staff first tried a taxi as the best option would be to return to Holyhead, but even they were amazed that it would cost £50. Eventually I walked into Amlwch’s town centre and found a quiet room at the Dinorben Arms hotel, and crashed out there. Thanks to the Scottish taxi driver who drove me back to the Leisure Centre to get my gear and back to the hotel then charged me half of what the meter said I owed him, think it was out of pity for what I had been up to that day!

After a very good English breakfast the next morning, Saturday, I left Amlwch and caught the bus to Holyhead, only £3.50 (bit cheaper than a taxi!) I spent the day wandering around Holyhead, and watching England beat Ireland at rugby, and then Wales beat Italy. As the Beach Hut Guest House was fully booked I had to find another place, and as it was close-by I found a room at the Stanley Arms pub, and after eating there went off to bed.

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Stanley Arms – jumped over gates to get breakfast!

Woke up Sunday morning and when I went downstairs found that everything was still all locked up. This was 08:00 and as it was a Sunday I thought that maybe they just started late, however when I came back down again at 08:45 the place was still all locked up with only a one way door out to the car park available. As I was hungry I didn’t want to just sit around so got my stuff and decided that as I had paid up front for the room I didn’t need to stay and wait for anyone. So I went out to the car park, and found that the main gates were padlocked. So now I was out of the building, with no way back in, high walls all around the car park, and the high gates locked. Only one thing to do, put my rucksacks carefully onto the top of the gate and climb over, receiving an odd look from a passer-by but such is life. Fortunately the Beach Hut Guest House was open and as I wasn’t going to be getting breakfast there the next day (leaving too early) I got a free breakfast in lieu of this.

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Can you see the runners ? Last 1 km

Then it was off to the Breakwater National Park to watch and congratulate those who had stayed in the Ring O’ Fire finish. Richard Heath came home first, in a new record time of 22 hours 19 minutes of actual running. Like the first dozen or so who came in over the next few hours, they all looked like it was a stroll in the park and they could turn around and run it the other way with no problem at all. Phenomenal group of runners, and they all deserved their medal and the bottle of Purple Moose beer. Well done to all who were there on the start line, and congratulations to all those who got to the finish line, a massive achievement. And finally well done to all involved behind the scenes, the organisers, volunteers and supporters, they all made it a great race to be part of, and a great place to be.

Top 3 runners home and RoF organisers - well done to one and all

Top 3 runners home and RoF organisers – well done to one and all

You can see more at the Ring O’ Fire website, or on their Facebook Page. It is certainly worth the 4 Points towards the Ultra-trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB).

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Medal table

Just to finish my adventure, the trip back was so uneventful that it isn’t worth commenting on. Needless to say I got up at 05:00 and was in my home at 17:00 (UK time) so 12 hours; just as it should have been getting there, but wasn’t!

So to finish this post a few questions to be answered:

How much was raised?
In total for this event I raised £830 (~€1,130 / 135.000 RSD); this will all go towards the Bowel cancer charities I support.
Thank you everyone who donated directly or via the events. I am aware that many had already helped with raising money (£4,200) when I ran the London Marathon earlier on in the year.

Would I enter again?
Think I’ll go as per Sir Steve Redgrave in Atlanta 1996 on that one 🙂

Would I recommend this race to others?
Yes, most definitely 🙂

How could the race develop?
Make it harder – do a non-stop 135 mile race!
Make it easier – now it’s an established race look to build up with those just starting to run ultras by making it possible to do Day One (as currently) an option in its own right – 35.7 miles / 57.1 km is still an ultra itself.

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Thanks for the adventure

Ring O’ Fire

I have entered another race, to aid bowel cancer charities, and to show that there can be life after cancer 🙂
And so, with the brains of a man in his mid-forties I have entered the Ring O’ Fire race. This is a not a normal race, but one that is a bit of a challenge (he says jokingly!)
135 miles (217 km) around Anglesey in 3 days is what is takes to complete the amazing Ring O’ Fire coastal ultramarathon.
NB – an ultramarathon is a race of any distance greater than that of a marathon (like the London Marathon I just managed to get around at the end of April!)
I’ve never done an ultramarathon before, so why not, especially at my age, have a go at a tough one if you are going to do one 🙂
Ring O' Fire Logo

The race is on from 4-6 September, so I will try to fit in a bit of training over the hot summer months in Belgrade (noting I will do a half marathon in Novi Sad on 27 June at night, because it should be too hot during the day they have it a night – logical!)

Basically an ultramarathon isn’t about the time (provided you can get to the daily final checkpoints within the deadline set) but it is about endurance – can you keep going to the end. That’s what I want to see if I can do, so my time and distance deadlines will be:

Ring O' Fire Route

 

Whilst this is a major challenge for me, it is also about helping others, and as my facebook profile picture shows, in entering such a challenge I do want to raise monies to help others. Please donate and help 🙂

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So what is the Ring O’ Fire?
Below is an explanation in both English and Serbian, and then a video the organisers produced a few years ago (before they lengthened the route by a few miles!)

“Ring O’ Fire is a 217 km coastal ultra marathon circumnavigating the Isle of Anglesey, North Wales.

This epic foot race is staged over three consecutive days (Start 13:00hrs 4th – 6th September 2015) and follows the rugged and spectacular Anglesey Coastal Path around the island. The extreme distance and variable terrain places Ring O’ Fire as one of the most extreme ultra marathons in the United Kingdom.

Set against the dramatic backdrop of Snowdonia Mountain Range, Ring O’ Fire offers adventurous runners the opportunity to challenge their limits in some of the most awe inspiring coastal scenery in Wales.

Almost all the coastline of Anglesey is a designated “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty” and runners will encounter a wide variety of terrain, including: tidal estuaries, sandy beaches, pebbled and rocky coves, steep cliff top paths, sand dunes, farmers’ fields and sections of forest.

It’s not all nature, as runners pass Holyhead’s ferry port; Beaumaris Castle built in 1295 AD; the grand Menai & Britannia Bridges spanning the turbulent Straits; the ancient burial mounds at Cable Bay are worth a few moments of time; and later RAF Valley, the airbase where all RAF and RN jet fighter pilots advance their training!

Ring O’ Fire should not be underestimated; the 135 mile (217 m) distance and 13,695 feet of vertical ascent make this a mammoth undertaking for even the most hardy of runners.”

“Ватрени прстен (Ring О`fire) је ултра-маратон којi својом трасом у дужини од 217 километара прати обалу острва Англеси у Северном Велсу.

Епска трка траје три дана (почиње у 13х 4. јуна, а траје до 6. јуна 2015. године) и прати стазу познату и као „Anglesey Coastal Path“ која се протеже дуж спектакуларно дивље обале острва Англеси. Екстремна дужина трке и промењиве карактеристике терена чине „Ватрени прстен“ једном од најекстремнијих ултрамаратонских трка у Уједињеном краљевству.

Планински ланац Сноудонија даје импресивне кулисе за „Ватрени прстен“, па тркачи имају идеалну прилику да границе своје издржљивости  испитају у можда најимпресивнијем природном окружењу које Велс може да понуди.

Скоро целокупна обала острва Англеси је означена као „Област нарочите природне лепоте“ што тркачима омогућава трку кроз различите пределе који укључују речна ушћа, пешчане плаже, камените обале и стеновите заливе, стрме литице, пешчане дине, фарме и шуме.

Међутим, трка није само у природном окружењу јер пролази и поред луке за фериботе Холихед, замка Бомарис, изграђеног 1295. године, потом величанствених мостова Менаи и Британија који преко немирног залива повезују Англеси са копном, античких погребних хумки у заливу Кејбл, који сваки за себе заслужују неколико тренутака пажње. На самом крају трасе налази се база Краљевског ратног ваздухополовства „Вели“ у којој енглески ратни пилоти увежбавају своје летачке способности.

Трку Ватрени прстен не треба потцењивати. Раздаљина од 217 км као и успон од 13,695 фита чине је мамутски великим подухватом за велику већину тркача, укључујући ту и ветеране”

Should you wish to join up and enjoy the fun then please do either via a charity place (5 still available at time of posting), or pay for your own place – it is sure to be an experience like no other 🙂

Oh, and why’s it called the Ring O’ Fire (…Johnny Cash) :-):

“Love is A Burning Thing
And it Makes A Fiery Ring
Bound By Wild Desire
I Fell Into A Ring Of Fire
I Fell Into A Burning Ring Of Fire
I Went Down, Down, Down
And The Flames Went Higher
And It Burns, Burns, Burns
The Ring Of Fire
The Ring Of Fire”Johnny cash

or just go to this link, the original video made a year before I was born (it is though on Rolling Stones list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time) 🙂