Hospice care

When you say hospice, most people assume that the care is for people with cancer. I did.

On hearing that nurses from a local hospice were visiting my dad, a question came my mind.

Did he have cancer? I knew that he had pulmonary fibrosis, which means that lung function gradually deteriorates. But was there something else?

The answer was no. The hospice team were doling their daily work, caring for people who are at the end of their life, whatever the reason.

I have worked in healthcare for my whole career — 28 years this month. Yet I had made the assumption that hospices exist to look after people who have terminal cancer. Why had I never considered end of life care to be for all?

That is what this short blog is about. Simply because I wanted to share the right message in case other people were thinking the same. And I know some are from the responses I have had when talking about my dad.

Taboo

Death and dying remain taboo in our society. There is much fear, mainly due to the unknowns.

We don’t talk about death as a part of life, despite it being inevitable for all of us. We will all experience the passing of people we know and love, and we will pass ourselves.

In some cultures, death is openly discussed and meditated upon to accept it as the cycle of life. In particular, Buddhism comes to mind. One of the tenets of Buddhist life is impermanence.

Impermanence refers to the fact that nothing stays the same. This is what makes life possible and can of course give great hope. For instance, no matter how you are feeling right now, it will pass.

Easing the discomfort of the discussion about death is possible by shifting the focus to living well. This is the view taken by Death Cafes that exist to widen our thinking and reduce the fear.

End of life care

Perhaps this is something we only consider when necessary. By the time it is, the importance is clear.

Each experience is unique. Everyone has their own set of needs and version of events.

Fortunately mine was positive. Having said that, losing a parent was surreal. The last few weeks and then days were accompanied by a knowing that the end was near, but never really knowing when. Time was suspended.

The one thread of consistency came from the hospice. The attention to caring, the frequency of contact with dad, and the little touches all made a difference.

Essentially, the staff use all their knowledge, skills and experience to make the journey as comfortable as possible. It sounds like a cliche yet what else would you ask for?

I became incredibly aware of the need for such care. I wondered how many people receive this attention? How many don’t? Everyone should.

This is the because, the reason for running the SDW this weekend (in just over 12 hours). Raising money is always a bottom line and I’m so grateful for all those who have donated so far. I know there is more to come too. We will exceed the target. But….

….there’s more

To me, what is more important is having this conversation. Raising the awareness of the work that the hospice staff do each day for people who need care at the end of their life, whatever the reason.

Raising awareness I think will result in more donations and funding as people will organically realise the importance. That’s my hope anyway.

If you agree, then you may like to support St Wilfrid’s, Eastbourne. Whatever you can spare would be much appreciated, a few quid, a tenner, £20, £50 or £100. It all helps.

See here for Richmond’s Just Giving page.

On the trail

I’ll be heading off from Winchester about 8/830am tomorrow morning. If you see me, give me a wave. If you fancy trotting along for a few miles, do.

On we go.

Tapering

I used to think tapering meant feet up, hardly any running and lots of eating for a week or so before the event.

Wrong!

For pro advice, you can read about tapering with coach David Roche here. For anecdotal experience, read on.

How I used to taper

I looked forward to the tapering week, sometimes two. Take it easy, occasionally run a few k’s. By a few I mean 3-4. So very little.

It meant a week or so of eating whatever I wanted. Awesome!

Days of sitting around, usually reading. That’s not so bad. There’s always something to learn.

But there was something that quite right. Reaching race day as I did in May this year, I felt heavy. Heavy legged.

My overall programme, which could be named hit and miss at best, was ending with a slothful period.

What was I thinking?

To put on a positive spin, it was a learning experience that has led to something much better.

How I am tapering now

Good training is sustainable training

David Roche

Tapering is part of the programme. With a measured, gradual approach to building fitness, speed, resilience, quality movement, stability and more, I have no need to spend a week or two resting to recover.

Been there…..

The week before SDW 100 miler, my training now looks like this:

  • Saturday: 20k easy on trails, hilly not steep. Run down hills with brakes off (building courage and skill)
  • Sunday: 10k easy + 4 x 30 sec hills (fast & smooth)
  • Monday: rest day, stretching/mobility, breathing
  • Tuesday: 10k easy, core/stability training
  • Wednesday: 8k easy
  • Thursday: 5k easy
  • Friday: 5k easy
  • Saturday: SDW

Feeling rested, ready, and relishing the opportunity to hit the trail next Saturday.

Now that is tapering.

Daily practices

Several times a day I stretch with micro practices dotted through the day – balance, stretch, mobilise, massage gun, roll, yoga pose, mindful breathing.

Most days I will sit and meditate. Other days are micro meditations of a few minutes. I am lucky because I get to practice with people most days as well in the clinic when we look at different ways to change state, create calm and clarity to help overcome persistent pain.

Walking. I walk everywhere.

Standing. At home I stand to work. In the clinic, I get up and move around often as a matter of course.

Our mind’s are embodied. Thinking emerges from the body state and the body state can depend upon what we are thinking. There really is no separation. We have just the one experience.

Hence, movement is a fundamental part of being at our best.

Upandrun.

Onwards.

RS.

PS/ If you would like to support the work of St Wilfrid’s Hospice, please donate here. We are over half way to the target, so your help is much appreciated.

The team looked after my dad and us so well in his final days. To help them continue this vital end of life care is so important to our society.

Thanks

Easy running

I would never have imagined that a monk would teach me to run.

Over the past three months or so, following my DNF in May, I have been getting it together by following a training programme.

This was a programme put together by record breaking ultrarunner Damian Hall. He bases much of his coaching on the approach by David Roche. David is a great advocate of easy running — you can run as easy as you like.

Easy running makes you quicker. Didn’t you know? I am not going to explain to you how, because David can here.

I can tell you that it works from my own experience.

I was pretty broken after two years of non-stop ultras. The pushing, straining, mile after mile initially worked, but the stress on my body caught up. You can’t keep going at that intensity without something giving. I see these folk in the clinic — the ones who are stuck.

So easy together with consistent and regular movements, stretches, stability and strength with have built me a base. What’s more, it has brought the joy back and the confidence to keep going. Perfect timing too with the SDW 100 miler next Saturday.

Thich Nhat Hanh

A great advocate of mindful walking, Thich Nhat Hanh encourages us to slow down, be in the here and now and cultivate a peaceful way.

I used to try and practice mindful running, but somehow had put this way to the back. Instead, I became over-focused on the feelings in my body and trying to work them out. This was part of the reason for the DNF. It is unsustainable because every little ache and pain becomes amplified.

Together with the easy running, I thought I would listen to Thich as I trotted along. To be able to listen to someone or a podcast whilst running means that your pace is easy — not stressful.

Thich guides many meditations, but the one I was listening to resonated. It also worked in as much as I became calmer and calmer, running relaxed and easy. Perfect!

This is the kind of practice I share with people who come to see me. Most if not all benefit from creating a calmer embodied mind having been dealing with many different challenges at the root of their suffering. Persistent pain in particular and the consequences.

The beauty of the practice is that it is so simple. Whilst it may not be for all runners, if you are someone who wants to master the easy run to become quicker, you may find it helpful.

Here are the words. I will share a recording soon.

Try this if you like.

The practice

Run easy, which means with flow, smoothness and upright, using your body as a guide — no strain. Notice your breathing, but do not try to change it or control it. One way is to place your attention at the end of your nose and become aware of the air flowing in and flowing out.

With your awareness now upon the flow of your breath, silently say to yourself: breathing in, I am aware I am breathing in. Breathing out, I am aware I am breathing out. The shorten to breathing in, breathing out.

This brings your attention to your breath in the here and now. If your mind wanders, simply start again. This is a practice.

Some people enjoy the presence and rhythm that this brings, somehow becoming part of the overall movement of running.

A further mantra that I use to remain present and at ease is: breathing in, I calm my mind. Breathing out, I run easy. Then shortened to calm mind, easy running.

Of course, you can create your own as well. Choose words that give you gentle direction that you can follow.

Notice what happens.

Let me know if you like. I’d love to hear.

Next time, some thoughts on nose breathing — because that is what it is there for.

Happy running!

RS

PS/ If you are up on the South Downs Way next Saturday-Sunday and see me or want to join me for a few miles, let me know. I am running to raise £ for St Wilfrid’s Hospice in Eastbourne and in memory of my dad: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/richmond-stace11

upandrun 21

Brick Richmond from Brickrunners

Back on the trail tomorrow for upandrun 21

Tomorrow is my birthday. My present to myself is to run from home to where I was born for upandrun 21.

21 is not my age.

The idea came from the Pegasus Ultrarunning guys. They have created an Ultra Marathon Birthday Hall of Fame.

Of course, the primary purpose is to raise awareness of the problem of chronic pain that besieges so many people across the globe.

It is also to share hope as our knowledge and understanding of pain advances at a rapid rate. As a result we can help people shape positive futures.

Further, ultrarunning is a way to experience one’s own pain and learn — blog here.

The route

It is a mixed bag. A good amount of the trail will be along the South Downs Way as I head from Ditchling Beacon to Eastbourne.

From there I will find my way along the coast to Hastings, where it all began. I don’t remember that day, but I know it happened.

The distance will end up around 80k I would suspect. Time? No idea. I always get that wrong.

One of the beauties of heading off on a long bimble is the loss of a sense of time. I often have no idea of the hour. There is only this moment. Truly present.

As ever, pics will be on social media.

Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

RS

Preparing for an ultra

To show September upandrun route
North Wales Coast Path

Preparing for an ultra requires planning. It is also a time to take it easy and eat.

Update on the route

I am now planning to start at the Menai Bridge.

Having looked at the path along the North Wales Coast, it became apparent that an acknowledged leg runs from the Bridge to Chester. Or vice versa, which is the way that I am travelling — East to West.

This extends the route a little to 131k.

In the meantime…

I am looking at the maps to build in my sense of the journey and to arrange the rest stops. Here I will meet Jo and Chico for fuel, fluids and any other bits and bobs that help me to keep going. Perhaps a change of socks.

Jeff is joining me for the last 30-40k.

Ffynnongroyw or Mostyn.

To show the meeting point with Jeff
Meet Jeff

This week is an easy week: a few relaxed runs help to keep moving, plenty of sleep and nourishing food.

I’ll gradually be pulling my kit together. It maybe chilly running through the night. Perhaps it will rain. Must be prepared.

So,

  • Head torch
  • Charger + cables
  • Waterproof
  • Phone
  • Gloves
  • Hat
  • Buff
  • Fluids
  • Snacks
  • First aid pack
  • Cuddly toy

I try to keep it simple. Minimal.

RS

 

September upandrun

Richmond's route for September 2020

September upandrun ~ Bangor to Chester

This month sees the return of the 100k + distance as I trot along from Bangor to Chester.

For some time I have been chatting with Jeff, an UP ambassador, about running together. So, I am delighted and excited to say that Jeff is joining me for the last leg — I will be on my last legs, that’s for sure!

Jeff is a great encourager. He is a coach, a facilitator, a writer and much more. Jeff has a book coming out soon, which I know will be superb. I am going to ask him to write a blog about it.

I also have crew for this one. Jo, my wife, has agreed to drive along the route and keep me supplied. She will be ably assisted by Chico.

Chico will be part of the support crew
Chico

Here’s the plan:

Drive up to Anglesey on Sunday. Set off around midnight, wrapped up and be-torched.

Make my way along the coast line through the night. Meet Jo and Chico at dawn with fresh supplies.

Keep going.

Find Jeff.

Keep going.

Have a beer and a pizza.

Lie on the back seat and be driven home.

Why?

To raise awareness: pain is one of the largest global health burdens affecting millions and costing billions.

There is much we can do as a society.

It starts with understanding pain. From there, people can feel educated, empowered and enabled to move on and shape a positive future.

This is the purpose of Pain Coaching, an approach I began pioneering around 10 years ago.

Thanks to…

Recently I started using Wholy Me organic products: the drops and the balm.

The drops I use each day, morning and evening. The balm I apply, using self-massage, as needed. This is quite often as I usually have some aches and pains from training and running.

I have no other me to compare, however, my own experience is certainly one of overall calming and soothing on a day to day basis. The balm relieves my local soreness. It is a great combo.

Recently, I had a chat with Celine from Wholy Me on Instagram Live. I shared my thoughts and experiences. The Wholy Me Instagram page is here.

Here’s the blog that Wholy Me wrote about our conversation.

I will certainly be taking my drops and balm with me!

Please share so that we can give hope!

Over the past 5 years there has been a significant increase in the understanding of pain as a perception. This enables us to offer a wide range of practices, exercises and ways to help, guide and support people along their journey to improve their lives.

See the Resources tab on the site for articles and talks, and more on the Specialist Pain Physio site; podcasts and blog (Richmond’s clinic site)

You can see the photos from September upandrun on Instagram and Facebook and Twitter.

RS

Ultra running: my first year

Richmond on the trail

My first year, what have I learned from ultra running?

I started ultrarunning at the start of 2019 as I prepared for a run around the Isle of Wight in May. My decision to take up ultra-distance came before.

In July 2018 whilst waiting for a mate, Chris, to finish Race to the Stones, I had a strong urge to give it a go. The vibe at the finish line was exciting and infectious. I loved the unconditional support for each runner as he or she finished. At the same time, I was wondering how it would be possible to run all day over that distance; 100k.

Soon enough, Race to the Stones was in my diary for 2019. How do I prepare, I wondered? That was when I came up with the idea of the Isle of Wight 106km challenge in two halves. This was to be my first experience of running an ultramarathon, trotting round the island. It was awesome and I was hooked.

In fact, I was so hooked that I quickly booked another race. This time it was a full-on 100k in one day from London to Brighton. And on it went.

At some point I decided that it should be monthly. Partly because I had a cause, #upandrun, and partly because the way to get over the last run is to organise another.

For some time I resisted calling myself a runner. I think that I now qualify. Plus Adharanand Finn told me so.

This is on the basis that I am out at least 5 days a week, covering 70-100k, and our habits form our self-identity. I also have a good collection of running books, often watch running films on YouTube, have a box of running shoes, a selection of hydration vests and running belts, headphones, and a pile of running clothes.

Also, I often find myself talking about running. Typically to myself or on #ukrunchat.

Learnings:

I can

First up, a sense that I can and will complete the task at hand. I start here and end there. By whatever human means, I will make it to the other side. That is not to say that a DNF (did not finish) is not possible, as part of the adventure is the stretch, the push and the risk. Anything is possible en route.

The unknown beckons. Uncertainty is fuel as each moment unfolds, step by step along the changing terrain: trails, roads, fields and more. Each footfall is new and feels different.

Ending up somewhere that started as a mere pin drop on a map beholds a deep sense of connection with one’s own resources. These are available to us each day of course, no matter what we are doing.

Discomfort

Running an ultra is decidedly uncomfortable, which is putting it mildly.

The perceived bodily pain in the form of muscle and joint noise, stomach pains, the blisters, the chaffing, the rubbing from the straps and more.

You plan what you will do in the tough moments. Visualisations, mantras, music and plain old ignoring, all have their time. What can I focus upon? Some prefer a more mindful approach.

To be mindful is to be completely aware and present. There is no judgement: good or bad? Who knows? This is the practice. Noticing all sensations, thoughts and feelings as they arise and pass on. Nothing is permanent.

What do I learn from this deep discomfort? I understand my mind under pressure: what do I think? What are my leanings? How much am I prepared to endure to reach the other end? In essence, I learn what is under the hood. We all have much more than we might think.

Day to day, it means we can deal with the inevitable ups and downs of life with a clearer perspective. This allows us to make better choices.

Nature

Out in nature for hour upon hour, you cannot help but connect. Or reconnect. You see the planet as you pass through: the changing shades, shapes, sounds and smells.

Nature bathing or forest bathing enriches our wellness. At least two hours a week is beneficial. As a trail runner, you may be out for five to ten hours or more a week, sucking it all in.

Touching nature lets you into its secret world. Paradoxically, it is protective and nourishing, yet also a source of extreme danger if you stop paying attention. Rocks, cliffs, rivers, tree roots all create a wonderful landscape. But, lose touch with your body for too long and you may come a cropper.

Interconnectedness

Wrapped up with the immersion in nature, you realise the interconnectedness of things. As well as creating the perception of nature, ‘I’ am also within and part of that very nature.

During a race I am interconnected with other runners. It is a wonderful state of interbeing. We are all in this together, sharing the experience through our own unique lenses.

Both this and a sense of loyalty towards nature means that the world takes on a new importance as our collective home. Artificial boundaries dissolve.

Awe

One of the experiences I love most is reaching the top of a hill or mountain and absorbing the view. The feeling of awe is potent.

Our significance pales. Self-importance fades if it was there in the first place. How small I really am in this world.

Pain

It would not be a blog from me without mentioning the P word. This is not the same as discomfort. I somewhat blended these above.

Western culture promotes the idea that we should be comfortable; perhaps even deserving it because …… . This is on the basis that more comfort results in more happiness. It’s an idea. It’s wrong. There has not been an increase in happiness (a fleeting emotion like all the rest) by having more comfort.

It is through discomfort and challenge that we have the opportunity to grow and learn.

Pain is different. Pain is complex. Pain is human. And, pain is far too fascinating to nail in a few words here. That is for another time.

On perceiving pain, we try to elucidate the meaning. What is my need? It can often run deep. Pain is poorly related to tissue state or injury; although slightly better perhaps in an acute scenario. Pain is about the person, their life, the context, their past experiences, their expectations, their outlook and more.

Pain is poorly understood. This is the reason why persistent pain continues to be one of the largest global health burdens.

And what of ultrarunning and pain? Yes, they come together. We have to expect it, and welcome it rather than resist. The latter only causes more suffering.

On the run, there are a number of ways to deal with pain. Again a big topic. Suffice for now and this blog to acknowledge the normalcy of pain, an experience that many of the well-known runners describe.

I have been making study of pain for some years now, both the science and the experience. Ultrarunning gives me insights that I did not have before. All of this will be explored at a later date.

There are of course plenty of other lessons learned. You will have your own to ponder upon and share.

On we go. Step by step: the run I am on, and in life.

RS

The 3 Parks

Richmond Park

The 3 Parks tomorrow for upandrun 15

May has come and almost gone in a flash. In that time, the lockdown has eased slightly meaning that we can get out for more exercise. In turn, this opened different opportunities for upandrun 15. In the end I chose the 3 Parks, not the 3 Peaks! The latter is on my radar as soon as it is acceptable to travel further.

I am fortunate to live near plenty of green despite being on the edge of London. The 3 Parks are Bushy Park, Richmond Park and Wimbledon Common. A bimble around the edge of these and back home takes in around 50k — a nice distance for an afternoon in the sun.

The last upandrun was dedicated to raising money for my local hospital. I ran around my block for 100k and managed to reach over £3000 in donations — thanks to all those generous people!

Now I am back on the case for chronic pain, one of the largest and most costly of health burdens across the globe. This is in tandem with the end of the Pain Coaching project as I tot up the outcomes and study both the data and the key features of the coaching conversations. Just as a brief insight, the average satisfaction score given by participants in the programme was 9.4/10. They also all agreed that they would recommend pain coaching to another person suffering chronic pain as a way to understand their pain and learn how to improve their life.

There is something special about getting into nature; running along the trail. Out there for hours, you can appreciate the changing colours, shadows, light, terrain, thoughts and feelings. It is a privilege. Nature offers itself to us. When we respect it, nature provides us with all we need including a listening ear. The past year of ultrarunning has brought that home to me. We are all wounded at times in our lives, yet we can heal. Nature offers that healing. Experiencing this so strongly, I have started Trail Life.

Trail Life is about immersing yourself in nature, on the trails or even carving your own trails on your way to wellness: moving, breathing, feeling, running, walking, talking, silence, feeling, seeing, listening, being present, being aware and more.

Look out for the pictures tomorrow on Insta @paincoach and Twitter @painphysio

My ultra 1st birthday!

Isle of Wight Challenge 2019 upandrun
Finish Line: Isle of Wight Challenge 2019

A year ago I started on a new running journey. May 2020 is my ultra 1st birthday!

The first weekend in May 2019, I set off on a journey around the Isle of Wight. It was my first ultra marathon and I had no idea what was in store. All I did know was that it was going to be an adventure.

My introduction to ultras feels longer than a year ago. Since then, I have completed 14 ultras for my upandrun campaign, which is on-going. ‘Where shall I go next month?’, is always a fun conversation with myself. With no races, at the moment I continue with solos, or unsupported runs. This means I head off on my own, carrying whatever I need, and get myself from A to B. We are allowed to travel now, so this opens a few options for May 2020.

Once running begins, there is no end point until you decide or have to stop. The next run always beckons. My shoes sit quietly by the back door, waiting.

I have never been particularly interested in times and pace. When I do become embroiled in the figures, quickly the joy fades. My body also starts to hurt more when I push the pace, and not in a way that is sustainable. Long distance suits me, especially on trails. The vibe is different, featuring connection, camaraderie and a sense of achievement by completion.

The relationship between pain and running is an interesting one and an experience I explore with curiosity. I am my own laboratory. Ultras require a mode that keeps going. The next step, and the next and so on. All sorts of aches, pain, thoughts and feelings come and go. It is a roller coaster that mimics life in many ways. This is perhaps why it is a fascinating experiment.

Build trust in yourself

What will appear next, and how will I deal with it? Certainly, completing ultra events gives you a sense of ‘yes, I can and I will’ that you bring forth into your life. The trust in yourself to do a job and reach the end before starting again strengthens enormously. Our habits inform our identity to an extent. If I have the habit of finishing or doing my best with each task, then this is who I am. This is my narrative. The same would be true for running 100k as to clearing the dishwasher.

Over the past few months I have been running a Pain Coaching project supported by GSK. They came to me with an interest in the concept, resulting in a programme that I have been delivering over the past few months. Now we are looking at the data, which at first glance is highlighting the strengths of Pain Coaching for chronic pain. The feedback from the participants averaged 9.3/10. More on this as we mine the data.

These are the gifts I have received for my first ultra birthday. There are more, many more, and they keep coming: the joy of movement, freedom, connecting with space and nature, engaging with a community, and let us not forget the kit….

RS on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook

 

upandrun 13 Table Mountain

upandrun understand pain
upandrun 13

At the end of the Adcock Ingram roadshow in South Africa, I tackled Table Mountain for upandrun 13. It was awesome, but much tougher than I expected.

In another time, when we were able to travel, I was in South Africa. It was March 2020.

I had been invited to give a series of talks on the Adcock Ingram roadshow to launch their Sports Science and Rehabilitation division. My host was TensCare CEO Neil Wright.

TensCare logo
Thanks to TensCare for sponsoring upandrun 13

visit TensCare Pain Relief and Therapies for a range of devices for pain, maternity care, continence issues, pelvic floor and muscle stimulation

We started the tour in Johannesburg, then on to Durban and finally to Cape Town. It was a whirlwind. Each event drew local physiotherapists, kinesiologists and other healthcare professionals together for a burst of education, socialising and presentation of the product range.

The organisers and sales teams created a positive vibe, which made the delivery of the pain talks a pleasure. I also had the opportunity to gain an insight into the pain problems that exist in South Africa by talking to the therapists.

Richmond and Nick the speakers
Richmond and Nick selfie

We can be optimistic. Our knowledge of pain is expanding at a fast rate directly via pain science but largely from related fields. This was a message I tried to get across.

Therapists can choose to see people’s potential and strengths. Through this lens, the possibilities open up and we can help and encourage patients to shape their own positive futures.

The three days of talks in three cities was energising. It did not prepare me for a mountain though. Or the heat.

For the first 10k I was guided up to Lion’s Head by Nicola from Energy in Abundance. We set off on the trail chatting about life, running and philosophy. The photos tell the story.

Sunrise

View from Lion's Head

Lion's Head

Nicola hooked me up with South African ultrarunner Linda Doke for the Table Mountain part of the adventure. Incidentally, Nicola made all the arrangements by email beforehand so I just had to turn up. I would recommend this if you are a runner wanting to explore the area. You’ll be taken safely on the best routes and experience the awesome views.

We set off along the bottom of the mountain to reach the point of ascent. Apparently the weather was to be the best of the season today. It was. The flip side was the heat, which I was not prepared for having come from the English winter. This together with the steep climb took some effort. The reward was the magnificent view and a tin of coke. I love coke on long hot runs. And coffee.

Mountain view
Crossing Table Mountain

Leaving the cable station and heading off along the stony trail, we also left contact with humanity except for a few lone souls we met. Three in total over the coming hours. It was a rugged and jagged terrain, yet covered with green resilient flora. We stopped to look at some of the plants that thrive on the mountain top.

Flora on Table Mountain

There was little shelter from the sun. We knew the temperature would be rising so I had plenty of water on board. Of course this warmed up against my body.

When Linda mentioned stopping at the dam for a dip, I couldn’t wait to get my feet in and refresh. What a moment it was, to step into the reddish water, tanned by the fynbos plants beneath the surface.

The five dams are entwined in the history of Cape Town. They feel remote, sitting above in stillness like a meditating hermit. Some say that they have been forgotten (read here). A small dedicated museum at northern end of the Hely-Hutchinson Reservoir houses the original steam train. It was closed and did not look like it would open any time soon.

blue water
Hely-Hutchinson Reservoir

Recharged, dripping and grateful for the simplicity of fresh, cold water, on we went. To the right appeared the sea. As the reservoir had, it looked so tempting. There was the feeling that I could dive off the mountain into the blue. Later and warming up, I thought of icy drinks on the beach that I could see. The sounds from the people on the sand wafted up on the wind, yet we were a long way from any form of significant rest. Linda kept me going. Plodding along. The initial climb had taken a lot out of me.

The sea

We made a descent down a gorge towards Hout Bay and Llandudno. We chatted about the latter and how it bears no resemblance to the North Wales version. Both have their charms.

This was a bit of a scramble over loose scree before reaching a more defined path around the peak we were navigating. I had to navigate a few tricky points, expertly advised and encouraged by Linda. To many they would be easily traversed, but with a fear of heights I had some extra sweat to manage.

I realised that I had taken something from the Snowden experience in September. Looking back now, I know that these experiences have pushed the balance towards a greater confidence.

There is much to love about mountains: their strength, enormity, resilience, their danger and unpredictable bedfellow in the weather to name a few. I continue to be attracted to the challenge of ultra trails in mountainous regions. The mystery they offer and the contrast to my local running spots draw me in.

The final push up a long jeep track to us to the edge of the park. Across from the parking lot was a smart looking restaurant and bar. Linda assured me they would serve a smelly, dusty runner, and they did. I sat outside amongst the casually dressed Cape Town diners, mostly families, and enjoyed a pint of icy coca-cola reflecting on a tremendous day of trails.

Big thanks to Nicola for organising the tour and to Linda for guiding me and running at the slowest pace that she has had to endure for a long time!

Contact Nicola here for information about guided runs around Cape Town

Read about Linda’s running here. She also coaches runners.