Goals? Motivations? Or just the joy of running?

Took a few days off, my excuse is resting my legs but also its been cold, windy and raining when I’ve arrived home from work. Two of these in any combo I can hack but all 3 – Then it becomes a chore and thats something I dont want it to become.  In a similar vein runkeeper keeps nagging me – “Set a goal – people who set goals are more likely to achieve” etc etc and I was considering this. At the end of last year I set that I wanted to do 220 miles by the end of the year (I cracked 300 in the end) and I found that I was going running either when I shouldnt because of tired muscles and therefore risking injury or even when i didn’t want to – all to keep bumping up my totals.

So when runkeeper nags me to set a target I refuse – I refuse because I want to run to enjoy, to feel alive, to leave pain behind for a while, to remember the good. I want to run to get better in my own sweet time, I want to run for the joy of freedom and the feel of the ground skipping beneath my feet. I want to taste the air and take in the views. Live in the moment – my moment with every step I take. I want to stop to think, to ponder the beauty of where I am of who I am, to think how far I’ve come and to look forward to the journeys ahead. To forget my watch ticking away to itself, it can tick. I’m a minute slower because I stopped to smell the roses? Who cares? I don’t have a training plan, I have my own plans, I’ll get there. I’ll get there when I do. Don’t wait for me, i’m happy doing it my own way.  My running isn’t statistics. My running isn’t a job. Don’t get me wrong I love milestones too. The first time I ran a mile I smiled. Back from the beach? Smiles. 2 miles, 4, 6, 8, 10, 13 – They all meant and mean something to me but i’m not pushing for them. They will come if I am patient and I can enjoy them all the more – just like my running.

Todays route   Just to the beach at Monknash and back in the cold, wind and rain. The tide was out but  slogging through evil conditions was going to take any fun out of it. I can wait for sunnier days.

The body felt fantastic today too, I noticed in work today that there were no aches and pains at all. No tight muscles, nothing. Looks like a few days of rest (well sort of rest, I walk a lot in work) can do the world of good. Looks like I’ll need to look into tapering before any events and maybe a few days rest or only light running beforehand if it makes me feel like today!

Rest day

After yesterdays exertions I decided on a rest day. I was actually amazed when I woke up that I wasn’t aching but I think it’s just starting to kick in. The thing is, I do actually want to run. This is a relevation in itself to me. Before I would have looked for any excuse but not any more it seems. But I think its best to let the body recover a bit, especially after I crashed yesterday. Will spend the time looking further into nutrition, it’s something i’ve not really thought about before until I read a post from slowrunnergirl.wordpress.com

I do eat healthy foods, at least much more than I used to. usually fruit for lunch (I skip breakfast which is probably not good) and then something made from veg and pasta or a veg curry later on. I might be missing out on proteins and other nutrition gubbins so time to have good read up.

So without a run I did some DIY with some wood I beachcombed. Carrying wood back from a run is a pain but it’s worth it.

Mounted a piece of driftwood that caught my eye


And made some handy running coat and shoe hangers from cut down pieces of wood







Well …. That was unexpected

I’m proud to say i’ve just completed my first half marathon distance. I didn’t actually mean to. The tide was out the beach was perfect, little wind and weather was fine. I ran from home to Witches Point near Southerndown and back and would normally turn to run the path back home – around a 6 mile run but I felt great. The legs felt fantastic, no stitches and my breathing was fine.

So I kept going, halfway towards Marcross beach the rain started and the wind picked up. No matter, its beach running, it’s a bit of water. On I went! Past Marcross – Now I’ve never run past here before as I know its all rock and no sand but I wanted to take a look. It is indeed all rock but almost paved in places so not too bad. But then the real rock hopping started. I’m not sure I realised how much it was taking out of my legs, I was just enjoying bouncing around the beach, concentrating hard and picking paths. If you were to ask me how I do it I wouldn’t be able to say. It seems to be an ability to flick your eyes up to see which way you’re going for a split second then back down to watch your feet and pick the rocks you’re going to run on next.

It was around the 7 or 8 mile mark (I wasn’t really looking at the distance) I thought to myself “hang on i feel great, just keep going and see what happens” And so I reached Atlantic College, checked my distance and it was around 8 and a half miles. Pretty much perfect for 13 miles by the time I got home as long as I added a small loop of around half a mile.

So off for home I set, now with the wind and rain at my back. I was getting pretty cold by now though despite the running effort. I’m not sure if this had an effect but not far after the turnaround I started to tire. I could almost feel the energy draining away. I had an energy get but it was probably too late by then. Had I known I was going to try a half marathon I would have taken 2 or 3. My spontaneity was now starting to cost me. The journey home was more of a struggle than i’d anticipated. The sand stretch wasn’t too bad but it was taking more and more effort to spring up onto rocks at the Nash end of the beach.

Despite feeling tired I was determined to do 13 so I added a small loop around the rocky part of Cwm Nash and headed for home. Now one drawback of beach running is that you can’t escape the fact that going home is always going to be uphill and as I started the first uphill part I started to crash badly. My energy levels plummeted and I was almost falling over at parts. It was incredibly difficult to run at all and I was almost doubting my ability to get home at all. Even at a walking pace. I’m not sure if this is what marathon runners refer to as “the wall” I honestly felt like I could pass out and running was extremely difficult.

Each field on the way back was a huge challenge, not helped by the sticky mud pulling my legs down, I was literally staggering in places. To be honest it was lucky this hadn’t happened further from home. A lesson learned indeed, be prepared and if i’m going to do a longer distance plan it, don’t just do it on a whim. Still as with everything in life its a lesson learned and an exprience I won’t forget.

Forgetting that last mile though it feels fantastic that i’ve actually achieved a half marathon over difficult terrain and in adverse weather conditions. Today i’m proud of myself and I feel I deserve that feeling for a while. Six months ago I couldn’t have dreamed of todays achievement and while i’m proud of todays particular effort i’m mostly proud of sticking at it and the hundred other efforts it took to get this far.

The route

Outward bound toward Witches – These rocks require some concentration at any speed


Traeth Mawr – Sandy stretch between Cwm Nash and Cwm Mawr. Beautiful scenery and lovely sand to run on


Rained a bit lately – Waterfall at Cwm Mawr


Cave at Cwm Mawr – Inside and out (Kids do not enter caves or go under cliffs like these – its very dangerous. I’m an idiot)


  Chimney stack near Cwm Mawr


Undercut rock at Witches Point – Only exposed at low tide


Marcross Lighthouse from the beach


Turning Point – Atlantic College lifeboat ramp


Around 11 miles in these rock steps felt more like a ladder


Limpets in a line – At this point I may have been hallucinating and willing to take photos of anything


Second field of hell – Hey cheers horses for really making it as muddy as possible


13 Miles and i’d like to say “Never Give Way” is more appropriate









Of runs and rockfalls

Today was another get home from work and get out there epic. Slightly earlier tonight so no haunted woods tonight just a slightly dim woods. The route was exactly the same as yesterday – down to Cwm Nash beach for high tide and back.

I felt great while running today, some days you feel like you’re flying, the muscles weren’t aching or twinging and I concentrated on my breathing. I flew down there despite wanting to make today an easy run, it was just a great feeling to bounce down the rocky trail, I felt in control of my movements. It made me feel happy I guess =) This running lark is certainly good for the mind!

On the way back and uphill I found myself pushing the pace along without consciously doing it. I was making sure my breathing stayed even and I was almost sprinting at one point. When I decided enough was enough I slowed it down and managed my breathing back to a good level with no issues.  Looks like i’m learning about my body every day.

Of other note today was a “rockfall” at the beach. Its more of a soft chalk slide to be honest. Where the Cwm meets the beach the cliffs go very low and consist of a very soft chalk. Interestingly there are very old graves situated here. This section of the coast is notorious for shipwrecks (Including ships lured to the rocks by wreckers) and the Nash Sandbar which sits out in the Bristol Channel has doomed its fair share of vessels.

So the remains that have been found are either that of sailors or monks who formed the monastery further inland (near my home) at Monknash. In fact I run through the ruins of the Monastery every time I head for the beach. More info on the graves can be found here Telegraph report on Monknash



I had a look along to see what else the erosion had uncovered and noticed a piece of what appears to be wooden planking jutting out, perhaps something to do with burials, i’m not sure.

Worlds worst archaeological photo


From above its just as unspectacular, though the artistically balanced pebble is nice


When I see things like this I wonder about the lives of the people who lived around here all those hundreds of years ago. What did they think? What drove them on?  So many stories that could be told but we will never know.

I may write more about the monastery again, this post might remind me. I used to be fascinated with the ruins and then life took over when I ran the pub next door to them …. Another story for another day.

Short but Sweet

I didn’t intend to run today, the weather was horrendous so I wrote it off. Then the sun peeked out and I was itching to get out even though I had a fair bit to get done in work I wanted to get home and straight out for a quick run. So I burned through my workload at an alarming rate (I’ll pick up the pieces later) I swear and motored on home at a rate of knots just in time to get out of the door before dusk. For some reason I dont mind coming back in the dark, it’s going out in it that I don’t do… go figure, some psychological shennanigans going on there.

So I managed to fit in a single run to the beach and back – Route here

As I was short on time (I’m going to admit I hardly warmed up – My warmups … meh I’ll talk about those another time) I left my phone at home, no music and no gps tracking. Usually I run with music, especially longer runs but sometimes it’s good to hear the waves on the beach so i’ll remove headphones for much of the time.  Today all I could hear was the wind blasting into my face as I ran down to the beach, I swear it picked up as soon as I got home. Then of course instead of a tailwind on the way home it subverted into an evil crosswind. The wind does this to runners intentionally I believe, its probably karma for challenging nature.

At the beach the tide was right in so I had a quick scout for any interesting driftwood (another foible of mine) but there was nothing that caught my eye and turned to go back and realised that it was now gone twilight and i’d be running through the supposedly haunted woods in the dark (Woooooooooo scary – Actually it’s easy to laugh sat here in the warm in front of the computer but running this trail in the dark does give me goosebumps i’ll admit)

I also realised that without my phone I had no way of contacting anyone if I was to trip or break an ankle while on the beach or trail.  One of the drawbacks of living and running alone is that no-one is going to notice if you don’t come home. Unless my cats work out how to call emergency services and then rapidly develop human speech i’m pretty screwed and lets face it they’re going to devote 100% of their energies to opening the food cupboard.

So i’ll have to either drag myself to civilisation on broken limbs or wait until I’m found by a random fisherman or runner. Maybe i’ll be eaten by demented sheep or horse. Perhaps this is the trail runners equivalent of being eaten by alsations.

I’ll take my phone in future I think no matter how short the run. I digress.

I deliberately ran a quicker pace than usual today due to the shortened distance which was interesting. I found it far more difficult to control my breathing.  In fact I completely let my breathing get out of control until I forced myself to calm it down. A strange sensation. I don’t usually focus on breathing at all. At the pace I usually go it doesn’t seem to concern me unless it’s a long drawn out uphill.  It’s certainly something i’m going to do a bit of research into. Not that pace really bothers me but I must admit running quickly over technical sections was quite fun.

Soooo … short run = long random post it seems

Not today and not a demented sheep but the only animals I seem to have photographed on my runs – I bet they would nibble me a bit if I was helpless!





Back to it …

Work and running that is. I don’t mind my job, in fact I actually quite like it. However I must admit I do prefer the freedom to run when I like. At this time of year the early dusk means that runs must be squeezed in. Luckily I was home early enough to get out for a while.

The last two days the rain has been torrential so it was a good time to rest the legs and let them recover anyway. Apparently its a good idea to rest them every other day. I’m not sure, run when you can I think because you never know what will happen tomorrow. Maybe it’ll rain, maybe you’ll be stuck in work, maybe you’ll get run over by a bus (make sure you’re wearing underwear apparently)  Well the running when possible seems to work for me anyway, I can tell when my body is saying no, it said no at the start of this week – probably due to last weekends milage and mud – the muscles were a little tight i’ll admit.

So today was four and a half miles to Nash Point and back via the road. I try to keep from the roads but it seemed sensible today to avoid the worst of the mud and darkness was going to fall so I need to get back fairly sharpish.

Todays Route (Manually edited as Runkeeper had a flipout halfway)

I did discover something interesting on the road, in some of the reading i’ve been doing people talk about runners “form” as in the posture of the body while running. Normally off road my stride is based partially upon terrain – apart from sand. But on roads I found I can increase my stride length and almost bound along at greater speed rather than my usual trail running which requires the constant adjustment of pace and stride length.

It was also easier to concentrate on form on the road as there are no obstacles to negotiate, trail running often requires an eyes down fierce concentration to avoid falling, thus the running is more natural, you run as best you can. In some ways I envy road runners who can bounce serenely from foot to foot with elegance – then again I prefer the technical aspects and sheer dogged endurance for offroad – different strokes and all that.

Mentally today has been better too, my head felt clearer and perhaps knowing i’d be running after work helped a little too.  I’ve been through this enough to know there are good days and bad, enjoy the good and try to keep them coming and not assume that every bad day or setback is the end of the world. Easy to type now, I wont believe it when i’m dipping, even if I read this. But it’s true enough. It’s hard to judge whats level when you dont know how solid the ground you’re standing on is.



More mud, more aches and shoe thoughts

Woke up this morning to rain but thankfully it brightened and legs felt ok after yesterday. A quick run intended but led to 7 miles along the cliffs to Witches Point near Southerndown beach. I seem to do this more and more. I feel bad for the first few miles and think ah well I’ll just come home a short route and end up feeling fine after three or four and then go mad.  It was fine today until the slog uphill through the worst mud yet from Cwm Mawr (Wich beach ladders) This time I really felt it in the legs, everything was aching and I was worried on the road part of the journey home that I was going to pull a muscle in my arse or hamstring.

Still, having done over 13 miles in the last two days I feel better about going back to work tomorrow. It’s back to trying to squeeze in runs after work until it gets lighter, well at least we’re heading towards spring!

I’ve been trying to work out which of the trail shoes are better in the mud.  I have 3 pairs (One of which I havent been out in yet).  The Adidas Kanadia 6 I bought from Run and Become after they checked out my gait etc and they felt best overall. They aren’t waterproof to any degree at all, they’re designed to let water in and then straight back out so it doesn’t stay in the shoe.  Works fantastically on the beach but when wading through mud they just stay wet anyway.

Today I ran in my Asics Gel Trail tamboura 4 (picked up from ebay but thats another post for another day) which are better at keeping water and mud out – up to a degree but it cant get out as well. Today it wouldn’t have mattered which I wore as the mud and water flowed over the top anyway.

After yesterday when I was slipping and sliding on wet paths which have seen far too much rain and use this xmas, I was hoping the Asics would provide me with more traction but they too left me sliding around. To be fair it would take something special to provide grip with the trails the way they are at the moment. I’m spending a lot of time running alonside them as much as possible to keep going without slipping.

I’ll probably get through to this spring but try and pick up a pair of better lugged shoes like the Inov-8 X Talon 200 which might deal with mud better.

Sun finally peeking through at Wick beach


Looking back at the path over the cliffs at Dunraven


View from Dunraven over the three bays I mostly run. The furthest end of this is Cwm nash leading to Monknash and home. These bays cover around 2 miles


Kicking off the new year…

….. a day late.

Yes indeed, new years eve celebrations went on  a touch too long and yesterday I felt awful and didnt make it outside. No excuses, my bad.

At least I made it out on day two and it felt good.  A 6 and a 1/2 mile jaunt to the beach, to the lighthouse at Marcross and then down to Atlantic College and back through the woods and road home (up that bloody neverending hill).  The paths though are atrocious after all the trippers wading through ankle deep mud on their festive walks. Still it does actually feel good to not bother staying dry and powering through the mud and water.  Technical note here – I discovered that “rock hopping” or jumping from stone to stone over a stream or from dry patch to dry patch is A) not worth the effort, you’re going to get wet anyway and B) You’re more likely to injure yourself. Just wade on in there and embrace it!

Todays route

A misty start with the tide in looking towards Marcross from Monknash side


Looking back at the Cwm – These hills are killers even though only a mile in


Mud, glorious mud – I’m sure its doing my legs some sort of good though


Turnaround point – Atlantic College





Trails and Tribulations

A little bit of history.

2015 was hard. Very hard. I spent much of it with my ailing and beloved dog Soaky who was slowly deteriorating. For much of it I spent indoors keeping her company and looking after her.



Thats her, having a sleep on my chest. At this point I had to lift her onto the sofa. I’d been hand feeding her for a long time. I’m lucky enough to be in a job which gives me the school holidays off. So when it came to the summer holidays which started at the end of July I decided I needed to do something to get me outside again. I couldnt walk her anymore as her legs were going and I now I had the time off I could spend it with her and get outside too. So I figured that as I live in a beautiful part of South Wales right next to the heritage coast I would go walking.

After a few walks to the beach for some reason and to be honest i’m not sure why, I decided to have a little attempt at running back home. I’d toyed with the idea of running before and had tried a few short distances the year before along with a bit of cycling. I didn’t stick at it – see excuses above I guess.

So at the end of July I ran … I ran the length of one of the fields on the way home and was knackered. I was unfit, so so unfit. I had realised this earlier in June when playing cricket. I only ran a few lengths of the wicket while batting and I was breathless and felt terrible. This scared me i’ll admit.

Over the next few days and weeks I gradually increased the distance I was running back. I would run a field, walk a field and I set myself a goal that at the end of the summer I would be able to run back all the way from the beach, its only just over a mile and uphill but I felt that this was an achievable goal.  I can remember thinking, how will I ever complete the bottom part which is the steepest and is a rocky track not fields or road.

I completed that run back 3 weeks later into the holiday. My goal was complete early and I was proud of something for once.  A mile doesnt sound much but starting from nothing it felt good. I didnt stop there though and started logging my runs on runkeeper and tracking them with my phone which I would carry in my hand for music and now gps tracking.

I progressed to running to the beach (downhill!) and then running on the beach itself. I found I loved running on the rocks. Skipping from rock to rock was a challenge and my balance improved, I loved running on the sandy half mile stretch between the bays.


With scenery like this who could blame me?  The first time I completed the run to the beach, the rocks and then this stretch all in one go (around 2 miles) I was elated. I was almost on my knees but elated. I can still remember passing two people walking as I ended the sand and thinking Christ I must look awful but couldnt stop then and managed to get there.

Through all of August I kept going out, I was running in some old Reebok trainers I’d had for some years, road running shoes i’d never really worn. I had some old tracksuit bottoms and cotton tshirts (which got sweaty and heavy)

The school holidays ended and I was back in work in September but I didnt stop running. Now it was becoming something I loved to do. As much as I did love it I didnt always feel that way before a run and would sometimes make excuses not to go. Once I was out doing it I was fine. I always need to give myself that push. Throughout September I would run after work, by now I could do 4 miles or so, a few breaks in between, especially because if the tide was in I would run along the cliffs and to get up there I would have to slog up one of the hills at either side of the Cwm (Welsh for small valley) – The first time I went up one of these I thought my lungs would explode and my legs were like jelly. Now it still hurts but it doesnt completely wreck me for the next 10 minutes!

At the start of October Soaky died, the brave little monster was 16 but it got too much in the end and I had to do the hardest thing I have ever and probably will ever do and took her to the vets. Afterwards I ran, I ran and ran and havent stopped running. Everytime I go to the beach where we used to walk (in 2005 we did 190 trips to the beach together – I counted) I think of her. Sometimes, out on the sand I shout “I love you Soaks” at the top of my lungs while running, I hope she can hear me, I think she can. Im welling up with tears just typing this, I miss her so much but she gave me so much and she is my inspiration to never give up. Every step I take out there, no matter how hard it gets, no matter the wind and rain and hills, every slog through the mud she is with me.

This is the sun setting on the beach the day she died


In October the weather was fine but the nights were drawing in making running after work harder and harder. I tried running before work but my body didn’t seem to accept it at all, it was painful and I was scared of picking up an injury which would stop me altogether. At that time the thought of not being able to run terrified me. I was in a bad place mentally when not running. The feeling of completion, of beating down something in myself when I finished a run was something Id come to relish. no matter how bad I felt inside at least I had that.

I got a little more serious. I bought proper trail running shoes (and road ones which I admit ive only used a few times because I dont particularly like road running – feels almost like cheating)  I bought proper running kit to wick the sweat out of me and running jackets to keep the cold out.  In october I ran 100 miles. I did less in November as the nights draw in and the rain was relentless. I dont mind punishing myself but inflicting pure misery is another thing!

I completed 50 miles in November and another 60 in December (thankyou xmas holidays) the day before yesterday I did 10.5 miles up and down hills and through mud along the cliffs as far as the deeps at Ogmore where I used to take Soaks to throw pebbles for her to fetch – one of her favourite games. When i got there I realised how tired I was and the 5 miles or so home was a real challenge but i made it.  Ive done 11 miles before and thats my best – on the flat of the beach its not so bad and the rockhopping maybe isnt as bad as hills and mud.  Whatever the terrain im always proud, today I did 4.5 through mud


And it hurt like hell, probably I hadnt recovered from the 10 miler but hey ho. As i’m typing this right now I feel good that I did it. I ran over 300 miles up to the end of this year. A goal I set which I thought I could never achieve. I did. A word keeps recurring here … Im proud, for once Im proud of something i’ve achieved and i’m not ashamed of that.

I’ve signed up for a trail half marathon in february which will be my first event, I hope to do many more in 2016 and ultimately a trail half marathon. We shall see. I have no idea how running with others in events pans out, whether i’ll enjoy it or not or whether i’ll prefer to run alone. Not that i’m ever alone –  “I love you Soaks”