Next ultra ~ a change of plan

Map of Kent
North Downs loop

ultramarathon no.8

The North Wales Coastal Path and Oxford to Richmond are on hold for now. A few logistical things to sort out. Meanwhile, the Kent loop of the North Downs way is calling.

Setting off from Wey, not so far from Ashford, the route heads down to Folkestone before following the coast to Dover, taking in the white cliffs. Turning inland, the trail winds its way up to Canterbury. From there it heads south west, meeting the Way back towards Farnham (the West start point). At the split, I will continue back round towards Folkestone for a few kilometres to the start point, Wey. I calculate about 90km in the day.

Keep an eye out for #upandrun on Twitter and Instagram and FB — RT and share the story and the messages: we can help people improve their lives, no matter the start point.

See the pain points here to start understanding your pain

A resource for GPs here who want to improve the way that they help patients improve their lives

And listen to Richmond talking about overcoming pain here on various podcasts

Overcoming headaches ~ a success story

Understand Pain for GPsUnderstand pain to change pain

I wholeheartedly believe in people’s ability to change their pain. Why? Because I have seen it so often and heard how individuals have improved their lives. We also see the effects of changing people’s perceptions in the research settings.

Many scientific studies have shown how we can alter experiences in many different ways. My role as a clinician is to translate this into something practical for people to use day to day to get better. This is why I spend time with scientists, researchers and philosophers on a regular basis, but also draw upon many fields to create programmes for people to get the best of themselves.

Here is a story about a person’s experience of changing their pain. In this case, chronic headache. I act as an encourager, a supporter and a coach, but it is always the person who must do the work to get better.

I suffered from Chronic Daily Headaches for twelve years, before I was eventually referred to Richmond by my neurologist, Dr Marie-Helene Marion, to whom I am eternally grateful for doing so.

Before visiting Richmond, the only option I had to relieve my headaches was medication and, when the drugs stopped working, I would feel completely hopeless in their wake. But, in just a few short sessions, Richmond completely reconfigured my relationship with my headaches – giving me tools to manage the pain and, more importantly, feel in control.

Very soon the hopeless despair was gone because now, when I was faced with a headache, I had options. Whether it was as simple as a full body meditation, going for a run, or turning to my daily journal, there were things I could do that had a direct impact on the pain and therefore my state of mind. I no longer felt crushed by the onset of a headache because I could take action. If the drugs didn’t work, it wasn’t the end of the road, there was something I could do to better the situation.

As a result of my treatment, I am slowly coming off my medication (something I would never have imagined possible, having been on them for so long) and feel better than ever about my headaches. It has honestly changed my life.

And there’s one other thing – until I saw Dr. Marion and Richmond about my headaches, no one had ever told me that I would ‘get better’. It was always about managing the symptoms with medication. It’s a simple thing to say , that you might ‘get better’ but, for the first time, I had been given permission to believe that I didn’t have to live with my headaches forever – from the outset this was a huge psychological boost. And, I am pleased to say, they were right. I am getting better.

NM, London 2019


#upandrun No.8

Richmond Stace co-founder of UP running for #upandrun

It is time to think about the October #upandrun ultramarathon now that I have recovered from the Snowdonia adventure and am back to running around locally.

There are several choices, both of which are solos. That is when the runner heads off on his or her own, unsupported, making their way from A to B.

The one I shall go for is Richmond to Oxford along the Thames Path. Previously I ran from Hampton Court to the Thames Barrier, so this will be going the other way; out of town so to speak.

The route is 100 miles. I will chunk this into two days, finding somewhere to stop overnight. Any suggestions are welcome. Preferably somewhere quiet, with nourishing food where I can dry out and put my feet up for a few hours before setting off again. All I will carry is what I can fit in my backpack.

So that’s the plan. I will confirm the dates soon.

If you are interested in sponsoring this run and the October UP workshop, or sponsoring/associating with #upandrun do get in touch >>

Snowdonia ultra

Next UP for #upandrun is the Snowdonia Maverick ultra

On Saturday I’ll take on my first mountain ultra. 64k of trails around Snowdonia.

The main challenge for me will be heights. I ain’t got a head for them. Running along Beachy Head and around the Isle of Wight we stepped quite close to the cliff edge. I get edgy. I’ve been assured that it is ok, nothing to worry about.

The other consideration are the cut off times along the way and the need to complete by 7pm. We start at 8. That sounds ok, but there is the small detail of the 3000m elevation.

My kit is prepared, lodgings are booked for Friday night and now it is an easy week to build energy. The weather looks agreeable but we still have to carry waterproofs with taped seams, a foil blanket and a head torch (with ‘spare batteries’). Things can change quickly on a mountain. I remember a stroll up Pen y Fan last February that started with light drizzle and a mild breeze. By the time we were at the top, you could only see about five metres beyond your hand.


Behind the scenes we are having a shuffle around to build momentum. Jo will be taking the lead for the day to day running of Understand Pain (UP), promoting and managing the UP workshops so we can reach more people, running the social media campaign to share the right messages about pain and connecting with partners who want to support our work.

The UP workshops are monthly at the moment. We are looking at running these every two weeks and then weekly in different locations as a next step alongside an online programme.

If you would like to support our work, you can sponsor an event and a workshop (see here) or you can give a donation (see here).

Today I am heading south to spend time in a unit that is doing great work with children. Statistics suggest that 20% of our children are suffering chronic pain. I see a number of kids who are in this situation with their families. Often they do not know what to do, have no understanding of pain and certainly have no ideas about how to move forward. This is where we can step in and help to make a difference. More on this soon.


Hitting the hills!

Map of Snowdonia

Maverick inov-8 ultra series ~ Snowdonia 2019

For the 7th ultra I am hitting the hills, or rather mounting the mountains….

Most of the races so far have included some steep hills. Over the South Downs near Ditchling Beacon on my way to Brighton from London, traversing the Seven Sisters from Eastbourne towards Brighton and along The Ridgeway on Race to the Stones, have all challenged my thighs. Running and walking uphill is one thing, coming down is another. There’s an art to the latter. A balance between controlling one’s descent so you don’t fall and saving your quads! The Maverick inov-8 ultra has an elevation of 3020 over 60-odd k.

Elevation chart

Traditionally I am not great with heights. So this ultra presents an additional element and feature for me to cope with whilst climbing, descending, walking trotting, hopping, shuffling and running. Don’t look down! Having said that, I have been on mountains plenty of times before and usually enjoyed the views, fresh air and freedom.

Recently I was thinking that #upandrun would continue for 12 months, #12in12. But then I thought about afterwards and what I would do. I can’t see that I will stop, so this will continue indefinitely with a blend of races and solos that accompany the monthly UP workshops (next one on 18th Sept >> tickets here).

You can support Understand Pain here, helping us to run the workshops each month so that they are free for those most in need, to increase the number of workshops and the reach. Meanwhile, I’ll keep running to raise awareness and bring the tools to people so that they can improve their lives.


The night before an ultra

The traditional meal…

…or so it has become the night before an ultra. Spaghetti Bolognese, full fat Coke and ice-cream.

This was supposed to be a simple train ride to Eastbourne. But, somehow I ended up on the wrong part of the train and arrived in Hove. Back to Brighton I went in hope of catching the next train to Eastbourne.

How would I get my spag bog? I’ll pause in Brighton and find an Italian. What a find! Pinocchio’s just off the North Laines was vibrant and smelt good. The waiter said he could deliver my meal pronto and so he did — see above. Then came the massive white chocolate ice-cream studded with white buttons and honeycomb; great!

The night train

Now off to Eastbourne at last. It will be bed by midnight, but I don’t sleep well before a race anyway. I usually wake every hour or so, thinking it is time to get up before realising that it is not, and try to go back to sleep. The pattern repeats.

Essential kit

I travel light. Wearing the shoes, ‘my ride’, I pack the essentials only for running. A vest, bottles, first aid pack, spare socks, a second layer, head torch, belt, headphones, cap, buff, sweat band, credit card, charging pack.

The South Coast Challenge tomorrow will be the third 100k run in three months. You start to know what to expect. Times to push and times to hold back become more apparent. Rest stops are planned more closely, and on this particular course, they appear every 10-15k. This may not sound too far. It’s the terrain that has the impact. Tougher terrain can mean it takes 10 minutes to complete 1k, or longer sometimes.

I learned on Race To The Stones that a little lunch (pasta) worked well, together with a foot inspection and change of socks (sweat = damp socks = blister risk). Slipping into a fresh pair has served me well on both the prior 100s.

Visualisation, breathing and meditation are all part of the routine the night before and on the morning. Creating calm and clarity, rehearsing mantras and tools for the inevitable tough moments means being prepared. It’s not a case of will it hurt, but when. I call these the sticky bits. This is the time to keep the feet moving. Plodding along. The ultra shuffle some call it.

Several days before I always experience some interesting bodily sensations. My right foot always hurts, together with my ankle and often the right leg as a whole. Throbbing, tightness, pulling, and a touch of strain all call out like individual voices, a choir perhaps. It’s a little reminder of past sensitivities and that something vigorous is coming up.

An ultra is like life. There’s a beginning and an end, with a sequence of things happening in between. Things always happen. It’s the response that is key in making it what it is for me. How do I respond automatically due to learning, social conditioning and genetics? And how do I choose to respond to those responses? Again, it’s not a matter of if life will have tougher, challenging moments, but when? I need to be prepared, to use those moments to learn and move on. How can I best deal with it? How can I get back on track quickly?

Next stop Eastbourne. Follow my progress tomorrow if you like: #upandrun on Twitter (@painphysio) and Instagram (@paincoach).


South Coast Challenge 29th August

Running a ultramarathon along a coastal path

6th ultra: South Coast Challenge

The next in the #12in12 ultra series for #upandrun is the South Coast Challenge 100km, from Eastbourne to Arundel.

The course follows an undulating route across the South Coast taking in Beachy Head, Brighton and the South Downs along the way.

You can follow the run on the day on Twitter with the usual hashtag #upandrun & @painphysio and on Instagram. I will be posting photos and videos on the way round.

And as ever, the purpose is to raise awareness of the problem of pain; the No1 global health burden.

You can support our work here >> thank you


#12in12 First section of North Downs Way

August #upandrun ultra ~ First 50k of North Downs Way

This month’s #upandrun ultra for Understand Pain was Farnham to Betchworth, amounting to 50.9k with an additional loop through a cornfield. For the vast majority of the route I barely saw another person, one of the beauties of a solo run.

Solo runs

These are independent runs when you choose a route, pack your supplies in a backpack and head off alone. In theory there is no support along the way as you decide when to stop and take a break and carry your own food and water.

The prior solo along the Thames Path from Hampton Court to the Thames Barrier offered a number of stopping points: cafes and shops. This time there was a sparsity that added an interesting element. Whilst the elevation was just under 1000m, so pretty steep in places, it is not an overly challenging route. However, it is very scenic along water courses, across fields, along trails and through wooded areas.

I happened upon two pubs. The first was notable, accommodating my seemingly strange request for a banana together with a pint of coke, a pint of water, a pack of salt and vinegar crisps and a double espresso. Steve and Laura at Ye Old Ship Inn just outside Guildford were most helpful. The second was just overpriced using ‘sugar tax’ as an excuse.

The North Downs Way in pictures

#upandrun routes so far…

May ~ Isle of Wight Challenge

June ~ London to Brighton

June ~ Hampton Court to the Thames Barrier

July ~ Race To The Stones

August ~ North Downs Way: Farnham to Betchworth

September and onwards ~ TBC


The first #12in12 will take me round to May 2020. However, my plan is to keep going until the Ring O’ Fire in August 2020. And then…..who knows! There’s always another level with ultras, and I am just at the start.

The next run should see me sporting a new outfit having teamed up with a cool running brand. They are also responsible for the funky kit worn by a well known and recognisable ultrarunner in the US. More on this later.

And the reason

To raise the awareness of the global problem of pain — the No1 global health burden. But that’s not it. #upandrun is also about helping people understand their pain and learning ways that they can improve their lives with practical skills and tools. This is via the UP workshops that are running each month in New Malden, Surrey; next one on Wednesday 18th September (tickets available soon). But that’s not it either….

This must build and grow. The workshops must expand and become available far and wide. To do this we must scale the projects and build. This is the work going on behind the scenes at the moment.

If you are interested in sponsoring or supporting, please get in touch:


UP Ambassador Chris Peskett at Grossglockner Ultra 2019: in pictures

Grossglockner Ultra — read here

Chris Peskett ~ ultrarunner & UP ambassador

Those hills look alive….

Packed and ready


Night running

Check out that scenery!

Look out for part 2!


#upandrun is an Understand Pain project raising awareness of the problem of pain — the No1 global health burden. We are working to reduce the enormous suffering caused by chronic pain that affects millions and costs billions.