Ham & Lyme


I debated with myself where I should publish this post. Should I put it on the “Home” page along with all of my non specific posts? Or  should I stick it on the “Events” page? It was an event after all – it’s just that I didn’t do it. That is if you think of “do it” in the typical sense of “running it”. However I was there. In fact I was there for almost 13 hours. I just didn’t run. I “did it” in an alternative way as I had volunteered to help out behind the scenes. So I chewed this over in my mind for a short while. It wasn’t a massive, long winded, and protracted mental battle, and I quickly settled on the “Home” page. I will save the “Events” page as the preserve for when I do actually run.

I had the pleasure, and pleasure is the right word, of volunteering at The Ham & Lyme 50/100k on Sat 11 July. This event follows the Liberty trail beginning at Ham Hill in Somerset and culminating at Lyme Regis in Dorset. This is the inaugural year of the  event which has been organised by Dave Urwin and Natanya Joy of  Albion Running. Now Dave is an interesting character – a tad off centre, intelligent, humorous, articulate, and visually not unlike Rasputin in appearance. He is also a published author having chronicled his journey into the world of ultra running in his book “Everything will work out in the long run”. If I had to restrict myself to two descriptive words for Dave they would be interesting and quirky.



Having made my decision not to run in this event, with my thought process being based on not being aware of how “match fit” I would be post op , I contacted Dave and offered my assistance to help out instead. He very kindly accepted my offer. As the day of the event neared I was surprisingly excited about it. I was genuinely looking forward to helping as opposed to running. All events, no matter how big or how small, rely very much on volunteers. The equation is an extraordinarily easy one:  No volunteers = no event. I run in events and fully intend to continue in doing so. Time for me to give something back then eh

I awoke on the morning of 11 July at 0445 hrs. A quick wash, coffee made, and departed for the journey south. I arrived at 0615 hrs at the start point in Ham Hill Country Park and met up with Dave. We chatted for a bit before setting up the registration room and awaiting the arrival of the runners. Dave had individual cards that were hand written by Natanya containing inspirational quotes for each and every runner. These were handed to each runner as they collected their race numbers – which added a very nice personal touch I believe. This set the tone and was very much in line with the entire spirit of this event. As registration became busy some runners unfortunately did not receive their cards but Dave assured me that he will post them on. I did joke with a few of the participants that they had the carry the card with them and show it when they collected their medals at the end – “Failure” I stated “to have your card will result in a DNF”…………..I hope they didn’t take me seriously………….. They laughed, or grimaced, or just thought to themselves “daft bugger!……… so I don’t think they did!

0900 hrs arrived remarkably quickly, and after a quirky race brief from Dave, the runners set off. At this point I often enter in to my usual waffle as I describe the route and  – I would love to be able to describe the route – I understand from those that did run that some of the views were outstanding – but I am not capable of doing so I’m afraid. I now had a bit of hanging around to do as Dave had told me that I didn’t have to be at the 50k point until about 1130 hrs as that would  give us be plenty of time to set up. So after I had loaded my car with all the drop bags and the gazebo, I grabbed myself another coffee and sat in the now still after quiet.


There is a gazebo under that lot somewhere!

Dave departed Ham Hill before me as he was collecting a few friends from Taunton, and I made my way down to Lyme Regis, arriving at The Marine Theatre some 50 minutes later at 1100 hrs. At 1215 hrs I was still awaiting the arrival of Dave, as also were the sports massage ladies. I now began to worry a bit (I am actually playing it down a bit now – I was worried a lot in truth) that perhaps (A) we were in the wrong place as perhaps Dave had to change the end point after we had been informed, or (B) Dave was just well behind schedule. I had images in my head of the first runners arriving and nothing being in place for them – no food, no drinks, no drop bags! In theory it was possible that the first runners could run the 50k between 0900 and 1230 hrs. I needn’t have worried though – the route and the topography of it meant that a 3 hr 30 min 50k was unlikely. I just didn’t know the route however so was entering in to “flap mode”. I fired a quick text to Dave, who at that exact moment, walked around the corner in his neon yellow RD’s vest and blue shorts, reading my text as he did so.

We  quickly mastered the skill of erecting a gazebo whilst battling with the sea breeze at the same time. Another of Dave’s friends Luci had brought along some large batches of home made soups – vegetable minestrone or spicy lentil. I of course tried both and can testify that they were both sensational. Between Dave, Natanya, Luci, and myself, all the food was laid out, all the drinks were laid out, and we chatted, and we waited, and Dave received regular updates on his mobile as to the current location of the lead runners.

We didn’t have too long to wait as the first 2 runners,  Michael Robinson and Shane Nesbitt arrived in that order. Michael is now the current course record holder with a time of 4:46:48. This time itself is testimony to the difficulty of the course (a 3 hr 30 min 50k – what was I thinking!!!) Third past the post – well no post really – third past Dave in his neon yellow high viz vest was Nick Sale. Runners continued to arrive in singles, in pairs or trios, or one batch arrived in a group of 8. First lady to finish was Jane Allison, with Sarah Baker and Sarah Frost grabbing the 2nd and 3rd places respectively. Luke Elliott breezed in, had a few gulps of ginger beer, a handful of pretzels, a couple of mouthfuls of soup………….and shot off back the way he had come. One word for him – machine. Ultimately he went on to win the 100k overall. I topped up water bottles, fetched food and drink, handed a few medals out, shook the hands of runners, gave words of congratulation, and gave words of encouragement when I thought needed.

I met up with two friends of mine who had been running, Rich Corp and Steve Carroll, both of whom professed to me how hard they found it as well as how much they enjoyed it. I spent the entire afternoon speaking to  runners who all without fail, only had positive things to say about the entire day. Listening to these runners made me believe that Dave has not only put on a successful race……. he has also provided an unique experience too that has been enhanced by also managing to capture the quirkiness of his personality as well.

Do I wanna run this next year? That my friends is a resounding “YES” 🙂

Imber Ultra

08 Mar 2015

The Imber Ultra Marathon is a trail run of approximately 33 miles. It starts at the Leighton Recreation Centre in the town of Westbury at the north west of the Imber Ranges.

Over the first couple of miles runners ascend the escarpment of Salisbury Plain, then follow the Imber Range Perimeter Path in an anti clockwise direction.

The first 10 miles circumnavigates the town of Warminster and a number of iron age hill forts on footpaths. Then the running is on metalled roads, bridleways and tracks east then north.

The route passes through some of the most remote parts of southern England, apart from a German village around the halfway mark! The final 10 miles are westward along the north side of the training area. Here the going is good on roads or big tracks, but it will be against the usually prevailing wind to add to the challenge. The final couple of miles include the biggest descent of the day, back to the finish at the Leighton Recreation Centre.

I started the day off with a sharp pain in my left sided hernia which failed to pass with time. It felt like the stomach muscles were being strained by the weight of the bowel protruding through it. I also had a permanent feeling of needing to pee. Not a slight pressure of just beginning to need – but the sharp pain of needing to wee after you have held it in for way too long!! This feeling stayed with me (periodic checks of the said lump showed that it had become bigger than it has ever been before. This chronic desire to urinate magically vanished at about 23 miles. Ta dah! I originally set off with Richard Corp and his mate Steve from Frome Running Club. Strangely, I stopped after about 6 miles to pee and shouted to Rich “I gotta wee – I will catch you up”. I never actually did catch them back up. I saw them in the distance for the next 5 miles or so but never hooked up with them. Not surprised to find out afterwards that they both finished in 5 hours and 59 mins – way ahead of me. Hats off to ya both. I met up with a squaddie called Rob who had travelled down from Birmigham that morning. In his own words he stated he was “under prepared and under equipped”. We stayed together from the 13 mile point right to the finishing line -33 miles and a time of 6 hours and 40 mins. However my Garmin recorded 34.97 miles. Recalibration needed me thinks. Check out the mug from the finishers goody bag. Way better than a medal.



Cotswald Way 50K (Unofficial)

28 Feb 2015

I managed to catch up with my old friend Richard Corp before the event and teamed up with his missus Emma Flexon for the day. Rich wasn’t running this one as he had The Bath Half the following morning. We started on the playing fields in Weston, Bath, and made our way to Old Sodbury….. before turning around and headed back to Bath again. It was incredibly muddy on some sections and the route took us over a serious of undulating countryside (for undulating read “hilly”). Emma and I made a wrong turn after the golf course, but luckily realised our error relatively quickly , so after approximately half a mile returned the way we had come and found ourselves at the back of the pack. My knee had been playing up the week before but was holding up well ….as in the fact that I was aware of it but it never really bothered me too much. I was using this event as a tester for my knee before I committed myself to the Imber Ultra on the following week. My left groin however (the same issue as at Salisbury 54321 last year) was causing me more grief than the knee!! We reached the turn round point at The Dog Inn at Old Sodbury, stopped for a quick pee break, and ploughed on. On the return journey we were joined by a chap called John who had never ran more than 5k before. Don’t let that fact fool you however. He is  a member of The Long Distance Walkers Association and was walking as fast as I was running! Hat off to the guy. The weather got colder and wetter as we continued and the sun going down brought not ony the darkness, but also more rain. It was becoming more and more precarious with each step so our little group took the decision to call it a day at the aid station in Pennsylvania. Do Nothing Foolish! 6 hours 45 mins and 25 miles of hills and mud, followed by a lot more hills and lots more mud = loads of fun. I have to pay a special thank you to the ladies that ran the aid stations. This was a free event, having been organised by Tim Lambert and Chris Mills from the Social Ultra Group. As such the aid stations were being ran by wives/girfriends of runners taking part. All the food at the stations was therfore either bought by them or made by them. It would be fair to say the choice of food and drink at the stations could put some other paid events to shame!! Fantastic day out with fantastic people. This is already  in my calander for a “must do again” next year – whatever date it falls on.


Salisbury 54321

10 Aug 2015

The Salisbury 5-4-3-2-1 is a well established event over distances from 10K to 50K in the countryside around Salisbury. The event name is derived from the route taking in 5 rivers, 4 hills, 3 large country estates, 2 castles and 1 cathedral.

My day started at 6 am – WTF – its Sunday Neil don’t ya know! A quick shower was followed by peanut butter on toast for breakfast, and then the last few bits were packed in my bag. Now I was ready. My daughter Stacey and her other half Jon arrived promptly on time and we set off on our way to Salisbury. We arrived early, but as it was absolutely lashing it down, it meant I registered quickly and we waited in the shelter of a hangar as we watched others que in the rain to register. Bonus! I made a last minute snap decision to change out of my road shoes and into my trail shoes – it proved to be a wise move. The recent and current heavy rain had turned some of the tracks a bit muddy. Aggressive soles Jonny!! The race started at 9 am prompt and we legged it – so to speak. It was somewhat congested to begin with but things settled relatively quickly and space was found. The rain also stopped quite quickly too. Alas, I had prepped for a full day of rain and maybe even some thunder and lightning. Thank you Mr Weatherman. I wore a long sleeve compression top, a t shirt, and waterproof jacket. The resulting ceaseation of water falling from the skies lead to my jacket being removed and tied around my waste, where it remained for the next 29 miles or so! There was sporadic rain for the next few hours – but not enough to make me put the jacket back on! Things bumbled along well and I got to the 3 hour point before I realised. Now….. those that know – know, but for those that don’t know – I have had a double hernia since Dec 2013 and have been waiting for an operation since (it is now 2015………and i am still waiting!!!) I am genuinely undecided if what follows is a result of the hernias or not. It was at this point that I began to get a sudden and sharp shooting pain in my left groin (I have had this before on long runs) that intermittently visited me for the remainder of the run. At the 4 and a half hour point my right groin thought to itself “Actually I want some of that too” and decided to join in, although with much less frequency or intensity than its left sided sibling. I found if I stuck my hands deep into my groin and gently massaged the muscle there that I got some relief. Thankfully it is school holiday time and I don’t recall running past any schools when we returned into the city. I fear that had the opposite been true then I could of found myself generating some interest from the local police as I ran past a playground of school children, with both hands deep inside my shorts, and an obvious relieved impression on my face!! I ran from the 5 hour point with a lady from London who’s name I didn’t ask. With about 1/2 mile until the finish I told her I was cramping up really bad and for her to go on ahead, which she dulely did. I just didn’t fancy telling her about my groin issues! I crossed the finishing line after 6 hours 10 mins having met a lot of nice people and chatted to many of them on the way around which added to the overall ambience of the event.The organisers did an absolutley amazing job and the flapjack and bread n butter pudding at the check points were outstanding!! Will I go back again? Definitely!! A huge thank you to Donna Mounty for paying the entry fee and staying at home with lil lady whilst I was off sauntering around the Wiltshire countryside. Likewise a massive thanks to Stacey Turnbull and Jonathan Hoare for chauffeuring there and back, for staying and supporting me, and for the big fat burger n chips when I finished.