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

ultrarunning to understand pain and share hope

Heading off to the Menai Bridge for September upandrun

There is a purpose for my ultrarunning, and it is mainly to share hope.

You may have seen the tagline I was using for the September upandrun: ‘ultrarunning to understand pain and share hope’. Here is why.

Ultrarunning to understand pain

Running for long distances means being on your feet for hours, moving along. On the journey, you discover much about yourself — you find out what is under the hood.

Under normal circumstances, we use our resources to deal with challenges as they arise. Life is full of uncertainty (more than certainty), twists and turns. That is the way.

What we can do is to focus on controlling the controllables. What can we control? Our approach and attitude.

Suffering comes from the way that we think about any given situation. Prior to this, it is merely a situation. This has long been realised by philosophers and others.

Life is a journey — cliche yet true. How do you approach the journey? How do you deal with things when they don’t go your way? The style that you use will determine whether you see it as an opportunity (to learn) or an obstacle?

Ultrarunning is the same. You set out on a journey that will be full of unknowns. When you are trotting along and feel great, it is wonderful. What about when you are in pain, feel sick, are hit with fatigue and hunger and thirst and more? How do you respond? How do you keep going?

Sunrise from the Little Orme

The concept of the pain cave describes the place you can go. It is dark.

But, there is ultimate learning about oneself in the pain cave to the point that many embrace the experience.

Pain is inevitable on an ultra.

You become your own experiment (n=1) as you examine your perceptions and thoughts shaped by the very actions you are making. When you change the way you move, your thinking changes — embodied cognition at work. Thoughts are very much grounded in the state of our body, and the state of our body is determined by the focus of our attention. Expectations also play a significant role — we see the world that we expect to see.

As inevitable pain emerges, the opportunity arises to closely examine the sensations and how they change. Different perspectives and different language all shape the experience. Noticing a shift in running pattern, perhaps leaning forward or the head dropping, one can lift and be taller to notice the change in perspective.

What is the story I am telling myself in these moments? If I alter the words, what happens? I notice how attached I am to that particular narrative and how easy or hard it is to let it go. Bringing my purpose to mind, or a loved one and there can be a sudden transformation of state.

Heavy moments are normal. Body, legs, head suddenly feel like sacks of wet sand — have you ever tried to move one? But you know that this will pass, like all perceptions. Nothing is permanent. This insight alone pulls me back from the mire of thoughts.

Our perceptions and bodily sensations are dynamic — always changing. Life is not static, instead fluid and moving onwards. It is the story that stays the same. The one we have been conditioned to believe is true.

Then you realise that there are infinite stories and possibilities. Freedom.

Ultrarunning teaches you about freedom.

I can examine my own experiences under duress and elucidate my resources my journey continues. The finish line is of course the beginning of the next.

Sharing hope

My message is one of hope.

Both the knowledge of pain and what we can do to guide, support and encourage people to live fulfilling lives has grown enormously.

We have much better answers to the questions (start here):

  • what is pain?
  • why do we feel pain?
  • what is the purpose of pain?
  • what can we do to improve our lives?

Many of the strategies, practices and techniques to transform and overcome pain are taken from the skills of being well, peak performance and strengths based coaching. Over the past 10 years or so, I have called this Pain Coaching.

There is a simple principle. The more you focus on the pain and try to treat it, the worse the outcome. The more you focus on the person and how they want to shape their life, the better the outcome.

Focus on what you want, not what you don’t want. As soon as you are saying, ‘I don’t want this pain’, we focus right back on the pain.

Instead, re-focus on your picture(s) of success and the steps you can take right now in that direction. This is an approach and an attitude. You will need some help, it will be up and down, but

There is great hope for many. This is my message.

RS

Conversation with Adharanand Finn

I first met Adharanand in 2019 when I went on a writing and running retreat in Devon that he was co-hosting with Richard Askwith.

We kept in touch.

A few weeks ago I took the opportunity to whizz down to Dartmoor for a one day running camp: The Way of the Runner. This time it was co-hosted by Adharanand and Barefoot Joe. It was a great day, as I expected.

As we said farewell, getting ready to head home from the car park, we mooted the idea of a conversation.

And here it is. Eau naturale. Anecdotes about and idiosyncrasies of ultrarunning.

Enjoy.

Recovery

Having a break with Jeff @ 90k

Recovery is part of the journey

Much is said about recovery. This is largely because there is no single way to recover after a run. Each person must find what works for them: the art of recovery.

I’ll share some brief thoughts in the form of top tips, off the back of September’s upandrun along the North Wales Path. But, bear in mind what I have just said about the individual nature of recovery.

1. Recovery stops during an ultra

When I run, I now always opt for normal foods rather than gels and the like. This can include any of the following, depending upon the stage of the run: fruit, pasta, sweets, ginger beer, nuts, seeds, flapjacks, a bagel, samosa, coffee, water.

On the longer runs, rest and recovery stops are important for me. On solos, they are fairly brief, but nonetheless, there is relief in sitting down for a few minutes and having a bite to eat.

This is in keeping with my running philosophy that is just for me: finish line, not finish time. I want to fully experience the journey, enjoying the ride as much as I can. There is no rush for me. I am not interested in times, instead just building my belief that ‘I can’ in life.

2. Immediately at the end of an ultra

I enjoy a pizza and a beer.

The most memorable was ending up in Bath one evening, having run down from Gloucester along The Cotswold Way. It had been a pretty foul day and off the back of a period of serious rain in the UK. You can imagine the state I was in….

They were most welcoming in Pizza Express despite my appearance. I was served quickly. Looking back, this may have been so that I left promptly!

3. Recovery takes a little while

The things you do to recover span a period of time. It is an on-going process until you feel back to normal: homeostasis is the goal.

Choose your fuel and sources of hydration according to your needs. It can be a bit up and down after an ultra.

For instance, I will feel hungry and eat. Then feel a bit queasy. And then hungry again and so on.

Whatever you do to recover then, be complete and see it through. This could of course include all of the elements I discuss.

4. Sleep

This might just be the most important one.

Understanding sleep as arguably the keystone of wellness, creating a good habit is vital for recovery and performance at all levels of participation.

Unfortunately, in the modern era, sleep has taken a back seat. For some reason, a lack of sleep has been championed as some kind of machismo feat: I can work for 23 hours a day….how incredible am I? I can be out all night and then carry on….

But it is not. What that is, is a one way ticket to poor performance and health. And probably a shorter life. There are some brutal facts. But we know that people don’t always like to pay attention to the facts.

Bottom line. Try to get the best quality sleep (7-8 hours) as many nights as you can.

5. A special ingredient

When we pay attention, we can realise that there might just be one ingredient that makes a difference. On that, I have made a recent discovery.

CBD oil and balm.

Having had a good chat with Celine from Wholy Me, I was happy to try the drops and balm as part of my daily routine and recovery.

Acknowledging that it is a case study of one, me, I have been taking the drops each day, and massaging the balm as required into sore bits.

I finished the ultra on Monday evening, having started the previous night at 1030pm. My watch told me that I had been going for 18 and a half hours, covering some 120k.

It was time to recover.

Yesterday I was running again, albeit an easy pace and concentrating on form. I like to do this anyway: a slow run (speaking pace), focusing on being relaxed and tall.

I am fortunate to recover seemingly quickly after an ultra. Perhaps because of my monthly jaunts since May 2019.

But this appeared to be quicker than ever. Was it the CBD routine? One cannot say for sure. Expectations also play a significant role, and I do expect to be moving almost normally by day two.

So, I will continue with the CBD as part of my daily rituals alongside other habits: cold shower in the morning, various supplements, mindful practice, movement, attendance to fuel and hydration, and sleep to name a few.

For it is the small things behind the scenes, accumulating their effects each day that make the difference.

Just in case you are wondering, I do believe that the CBD is making a difference to me.

6. Bonus: motion is lotion

Keep moving.

It is tempting to stay still and rest. But it is movement we need to nourish the muscles, joints, nerves and more.

Easy movements, getting up, changing position, trying to maintain best form, and being regular are all important for recovery.

They are also vital day to day because the way we use our body will shape its form. And it is that form you take into running and other activities.

If you sit for long periods, parts of your body will tighten. You will then try to move those parts vigorously in sports causing adaptation and excess strain. This is one of the major reasons for the gradual onset of pain and sensitivity.

The body also keeps a record of every emotion and experience you have. We must look after ourselves as a whole if we want to perform.

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

 

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

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.

upandrun 14 ~ round the block for the NHS

Richmond at 80k

On Monday I ran 100k around the block to raise money for the NHS staff at Kingston Hospital.

I dedicated the April upandrun ultra to raising money to support the staff at Kingston Hospital through the hospital charity. To date we have raised £3215 thanks to all the generous donations.

you can donate here

Considering the need for social distancing, I chose a 5k circuit that I could run twenty times. For variety, I changed direction with each lap.

5k x 20 laps

It was still dark when I set off at 5:08am. I love this time of day. It was so quiet, the sky is just starting to lighten and there were just a few people on their way to work or out walking their dogs. Soon enough the first kilometre was indicated by the familiar sound from my watch. 99 to go. I set my mind to the task, resigned to the fact that there were twelve or thirteen hours to go. There is always some comfort in that.

The day was perfect: a warm sun and a cool breeze. There was no need to carry anything as I could simply grab fuel and drinks on each lap, and even stop for lunch at home. My wife prepared a delicious bowl of plain pasta.

Each time I ran down my street, someone would cheer and clap, shouting out words of encouragement. This gave me energy. There was a purpose behind this run, as there is with each upandrun. Usually I am running to raise awareness of the problem of pain, but this time I was using my legs to show support for the NHS heroes.

No matter what discomfort I was experiencing, I knew that it would ease and that I would be in the bath at the end of the day. However, for our NHS and other essential workers (carers, teachers, delivery people, personnel running the public transport, supermarket staff and more), this goes on for now. The run was about them and showing appreciation for what they are doing to positively contribute to our society.

And so the day proceeded: round and round, legs heavier, strides shorter, but onwards I went. The toughest period was 60 to 80k. I had covered a good distance, but there was still a long way to go.

At 1245 I was interviewed on BBC Radio Surrey by Sarah Gorrell. This was a chance to tell listeners about the run and the cause. It was also a break in the monotony.

A friend who runs jokingly called this the Kingston Hospital Self-Transcendence race after the Sri Chinmoy 3100 that takes place in New York. Runners complete a 3100 mile course around a single block in New York. There is a film about it now: Run and Become. This was my version. A much shorter version.

My sense of time was distorted. I find that this always happens on an ultramarathon. I lose track of time, which is wonderful. I simply focus on the next step. The day begins to blur and soon enough, the end is near.

The final lap approached. For some reason, I was a few hundred metres short and had to take the lower road to loop round and make the 100k total. The neighbours were waiting, and as soon as they saw me coming the cheering and clapping began. It was a super way to end the day.

On we go.

upandrun
Richmond

RS

 

#upandrun 12: Gloucester to Bath review

Hoka Speedgoats
It was a bit muddy

#upandrun 12 route from Gloucester to Bath, taking in the Cotswold Way

I started running along the road towards Birdlip to pick up the Cotswold Way. It was just after 530am, the streets were quiet and I was on my way. The streetlights came to an end as I reached the edge of town and began to climb.

In the darkness with my head-torch illuminated, I could see on-coming cars in the distance and I hoped they could see me. Running along close to the narrow grassy verge, I continually created an escape plan in case I needed to take evasive action. That plan, which fortunately I did not have to use, was simply to dive into the bush. I thought it through what seemed to be every few seconds.

The sun was just starting to rise as Cotswold Way signs appeared, the trail bisecting the road. I turned right onto the path that immediately started winding its way down into the woods. It was soft underfoot, with occasional muddy patches, but perfectly passable and even supporting a steady running pace.

Running a trail is the perfect time to be present. The ever-changing pink sky delivered a backdrop for the unfolding scenery as I trotted along. Noticing the changes in light is something unique to being in the countryside, almost moment by moment. It is easy to miss, especially in a town or city.

It felt like it was going to be a good day. I had a plan for fuelling, learning from previous ultras that it is important for me to keep it regular, so a snack every 10k. I was loaded with bars, Kendall mint cake and other snacks, plus I was confident that I would come across a cosy cafe serving great coffee and offering respite. That didn’t appear for quite some hours though…

Mud, bogs, rain, wind

The trail was starting to become muddy, slippery and skiddy. My Speedgoats were helping me stay upright, although I had to slow my pace to navigate these patches. Over the day, I only fell once, imprinting a sizeable brown mark on my left buttock.

Losing the trail in a small Cotswold village, an elderly couple pointed me in the right direction, warning that the field I was about to cross was steep and very wet. It was. That was the end of having dry feet for some hours.

Rain was forecast, so I was not surprised when I noticed a few drops on my face. Playing it safe, I donned my waterproof. That, was a wise decision. Within moments the rain was coming at me sideways. On off went the showers for the rest of the day, mainly on from what I recall. The wind whipped around me, especially on the exposed hills, resulting in a crouching style of running that probably did nothing except make my thighs work harder. Note to self.

It was not the water from the sky that was slowing me down though. It was underfoot. I was fortunate not to lose a shoe as I squelched my way through and round fields that were utterly waterlogged. The animals I passed looked at me and wondered what I was doing. This was the sense of their expressions anyway.

How grateful I was when a farmer gave me directions along a lane rather than over his field, which did not look like a field. It was more like the top of a moist chocolate cake.

On I went.

From http://www.cotswoldrunning.co.uk/cotswold-way-century

The Cotswolds Way is far steeper than I had anticipated. Mind you, I do like climbing a hill. There is great satisfaction on reaching the summit and looking back to see where you have stepped and taking in the scenery. King of the hill.

There are moments along the way when you ask yourself why? Pain, cold, wet, miserable weather are all reasons to stop. They are also reasons to go on exploring and discovering. That’s the beauty of ultra. Rolling with the ups and downs, the successes and challenges, one foot after the next. There is no stopping the stream of conscious experience that continually delivers the plethora of unplanned feelings, thoughts, sensations, sounds and other appearances. Noticing this is being mindful.

And so, after about 13 hours, Bath arrived out of the darkness in the distance. The last kilometers followed alongside the A46. The sun had long gone, replaced by a blackness pierced by red and white car lights. Back into urbanity, running along the city streets towards the pizza and beer that had so clearly formed in my mind.

#upandrun 12 finish

The day ended at 90k. I am looking at when I can move this on to a 100-miler, the next natural step. My feeling is that a supported run would be best, but we will see. The next #upandrun will be in South Africa where I am heading in a week’s time to give a series of pain talks — read here. The plan is to take in Table Mountain within an ultra of around 50k.

On we go.

RS

#upandrun 12: The Cotswold Way

Map of the Cotswold The Cotswold Way

#upandrun 12: The Cotswold Way

It’s probably going to be a soggy #upandrun on tomorrow when I trot from Cheltenham to Bath along the Cotswold Way. The weather has hit the UK over the weekend, another sure sign of climate change and reason to look after our planet and ourselves — the two entwined.

#upandrun 12 is an unsupported, or solo run. Whilst I do enjoy the excitement of an event, there is something about doing it alone. Not seeing another person for miles or hours and simply connecting with nature has special qualities. For company you have the trail, the fields, the trees, animals, birds, sounds of the wind and silence.

Our experience of nature is embodied of course, so no matter what we perceive ‘out there’, the inner world informs what that is like. Running for long periods of time means inevitable connecting with the self, one’s body and how they are unified. Each step, each twinge, each ache and each pain tell a story. Your story.

Challenging moments arise. On a solo, there’s no-one there to encourage, no aid station and no medal at the end. There’s a purity to this; what’s the motivator? A purpose. Undoubtedly, having a strong sense of purpose is fuel. The ‘why’. So why?

My shared purpose with UP is simply to help people improve their lives, in particular those suffering chronic pain. And why? Because I believe that we can truly help others transform their lives and move on. This belief has strengthened over the years. We are designed to do better than just survive, which is what many people are doing day to day; surviving their lives.

Packing ~ no number, no medal

Then there is the ‘why’ of running…

Recently I was considering the practice of curiosity, and it dawned on me that this is the reason I run. I am curious about what is over the next hill, how the day unfolds, the scene in front of me and how it emerges in my awareness and passes. I am curious about how far I can go and what it will feel like; the unknown.

Tapping into the natural explorer, these ultra-runs quench that thirst. We are born explorers, learning about the world and ourselves with every movement and experience from the outset. Picture a baby starting to move, crawl and then walk, building a lived experience of the world. We create that world by acting upon it, predicting what comes next based on what came before. Touching nature by stepping on the trail, I a perceiving that very trail by the act of running.

#upandrun is made complete by workshops and spending time coaching and encouraging people to reach their potential and achieve the results that they desire. The current project focuses upon people suffering pain from osteoarthritis. There are more free places available, so please share or do get in touch to sign up for your place (see the link below).

UP OA Pain Coaching Project

 

What next?

You can see me on the trail tomorrow by following on Twitter @painphysio and Instagram @paincoach and FB Specialist Pain Physio.

Then it looks like #upandrun 13 will be over Table Mountain…..

If you are interested in partnering and supporting #upandrun, please get in touch. There are a range of ways you can sponsor and share your story with that of UP. Email Richmond here.